Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin
A modern-day tale set in the Arctic Circle unfolds as the past is revealed.
There are a lot of characters and narrative threads in Ed O'Loughlin's Minds of Winter. The story moves between the chance encounter of present-day Nelson and Fay, and the past, beginning in 1841 with the Franklin Northwest Passage expedition. But it's also a story about Canada's Arctic, the north that has become an integral part of Canadian identity.
The story includes the real-life mystery of the Arnold 294 chronometer, which was lost in the Arctic during the Franklin expedition and then reappeared over 100 years later in Britain. It's also about the mystery surrounding the expedition—the rumours of cannibalism, why the men perished, and what happened to that missing chronometer. But it's also about Nelson and Fay, who are both searching for someone, and realize very quickly into their unlikely alliance that they might just be after the same information.
In the backdrop is always the presence of the harsh and majestic Canadian weather—blocking traffic and grounding planes one minute and showing the awe-inspiring Northern Lights the next. It's a constant in this novel, as relevant now as it was in 1841, revealing and hiding secrets and stopping time.
Q&A WITH AUTHOR ED O'LOUGHLIN
Q: What is the one thing you hope readers will walk away with after reading your novel?
A: I hope they walk away with a sense of the mysteriousness and infinite possibilities of the world we live in, and the beauty of what we have.
Q: How does the setting influence the narrative?
A: The novel is about the northern setting. The setting was the point of it. Having to have characters and history came second. I wanted to write about the map, I wanted to write about the polar regions and how mysterious and uncanny they are. And in the end, I had to find characters to dress it up. You can't just write about geography. You have to write about people. And so a geographical novel becomes a historical novel.
Q: How do your own personal experiences come through in the book?
A: It's a deeply personal book, and has a lot to do with my life in the last—actually all my life. But in no way is it direct, it's all very indirect. I am writing about myself, and I think all authors are writing about themselves. But I chose to do it in a sneaky, roundabout way so its all hidden and coded and I don't think anyone will figure it out.
Ed O'Loughlin, author of Minds of Winter.
Q: What do you think sets Canadian writers apart?
A: Nothing sets them apart. There is no school of Canadian writing. There are certain tropes and preoccupations you see again and again in English literature and American literature and Irish literature, but Canadian writers just seem to write about whatever the hell they want to. Which is great. That would be my attitude. I wouldn't want to write that Irish novel over and over again. Canadian literature, it's just about everything.
Q: What is your favourite Canadian book?
A: The one that kind of astounded me the most when I first red him was Robertson Davis, his Toronto trilogy about academics and defrocked priests and weird Anglicans. It goes back to the last question you asked me, in that it was not what you would expect from this Canadian writer. He took this high-Tory very learned very old world sensibility and dropped it right down into Northern Ontario.
Minds of Winter (Anansi) by Ed O'Loughlin, $21, amazon.ca.
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