NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE by Timothy Findley

NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As in earlier novels (Famous Last Words, 1982; The Wars, 1978), the Canadian Findley here offers a story based loosely on already familiar material. Yet here his sights are set higher, and what he is attempting--and quite impressively achieving--is nothing less than a re-examination of the patriarchal assumptions inherent in the Genesis story of the Flood. Findley's revision eliminates the cozy two-by-two of the traditional version, dealing less with the consoling idea of being chosen than with the terrified struggles of the animal and human multitudes ""not wanted on the voyage,"" left to drown by Noah and abandoned (apparently) by Yahweh. In its deliberate anachronisms (lightbulbs, gin, silks imported from China) and fracturings of the traditional roles (Noah is a heartless and practically brainless ideologue; Yahweh, an all-too-fallible complainer), the novel seems at first too reminiscent of Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth. But for all the fanciful touches--there are faeries, singing sheep, and unicorns here--Findley is not interested in whimsy: his real topics are the vulnerability of all creatures to Fate; and the human resistance to change versus the apparently inexorable commands of Nature and Deity that things do change--and catastrophically. Mrs. Noah Noyes, at first a figure of fun, soon becomes the center of the novel, in her first instinctive and later quite conscious rejection of the Divine Will that would sweep away her home, destroy her family, and condemn her favorite cat to be drowned. The Flood also destroys the magic of a just-created world, as faeries petition to be allowed on board the ark but are denied: and demons (who are aiding Lucifer--here cross-dressing as Ham's gorgeous wife ""Lucy"") are murdered by Shepath. Repeatedly, Findley uses bloody scenes of ritual slaughter--the selection of exemplary victims--to underscore the seemingly arbitrary decrees of Fate and the origins of cruelty in disorientation and fear. All in all, a fable for our times, inventive and often heart-rending.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1985
Publisher: Delacorte