Trillium by Margaret Lindsay Holton is an epic multi-generational saga that spans 250 years and is set around the shores of Lake Ontario.
We are first introduced to 19 year old soldier Tom as he struggles to cross the raging Niagara River. Tom eventually becomes the patriarch of the Hartford family, and it is with him that the saga begins, a saga that explores human behaviour across distinct cultures and generations.
This epic tale begins by looking into the history of the indigenous populations and their struggles against the new settlements and buildings being erected across Southern Ontario and the Niagara River.
While Tom may be our first protagonist he is by no means our last. This saga takes us through three very distinct families all of whom seek out land in Canada to make their fortune.
This is a book that celebrates the rich history of its gorgeous setting, as well as the beginning of its famous ice wine industry. But it does so much more than that too, it explores the influx of migrants from Mexico and Italy, it deals with a man struggling with his sexual identity, and it deals with con men and hedonists.
This is a novel packed with a cornucopia of different characters and personalities, each as vivid and cultivated as the one before them. This is a masterpiece of interweaving stories that span over two centuries of Canadian history. But it’s also a little confusing. There are a lot of stories and people to remember here, and sometimes I found myself a little lost at what was going on, but I think that’s part and parcel for this kind of work. It’s also a shame that we don’t get to spend more time with each family as the narrative whisks off to another place in time.
On the other hand this does make our short time with each character that little bit more precious, and I found myself more captivated by characters like Anna because of the short time I would get to know her.
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This is an interesting novel with complex moral issues at its core, and an interesting sci-fi plot to keep you engaged.
There is also a lot of attention paid to the farmhouse, and its transformation over the many years. Details like the introduction of indoor plumbing and double pane windows are not missed out or glossed over here, and while that may sound boring it is actually fascinating to visualise the house changing as new families come and go. In many ways the house is the central character, it is the one constant in an ever changing sea of characters.
The main problem I had with the story was it’s pacing, a lot of the first half of the book is a slow burn, very slow in fact, most of the action gets going towards the end and while it’s a decent payoff I did force myself through a fair bit of the opening.
Holton has achieved a rich and varied novel filled with beauty and wonder as well as revulsion and shock. Her use of language to create unrivalled imagery is akin to a painting on a canvas, this is a rich and imaginative world she has created but it’s the characters she has given form to that are the standout gem to be found here.
If you’d like to check out Trillium for yourself you can find it on Amazon.