Books·Canadian

The Winter Vault

Anne Michaels's novel follows a couple revisiting their own histories, as their surroundings are reshaped by technological advancements.

Anne Michaels

In 1964, a newly married Canadian couple settle into a houseboat on the Nile just below Abu Simbel. At the time of the building of the Aswam dam, Avery Escher is one of the engineers responsible for the dismantling and reconstruction of a sacred temple, a "machine-worshipper" who is nonetheless sensitive to their destructive power. Jean is a botanist by avocation, passionately interested in everything that grows. They met on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, witnessing the construction of the Seaway as it swallowed towns, homes, and lives. Now, at the edge of another world about to be inundated in the name of progress, much of what they most believe in is tested.

When a tragic event occurs, nearing the end of Avery's time in Egypt, he and Jean return to separate lives in Toronto; Avery to school to study architecture and Jean into the orbit of Lucjan, a Polish émigré artist whose haunting tales of occupied Warsaw pull her further from her husband, while offering her the chance to assume her most essential life. (From McClelland & Stewart)

From the book

And she knew for the first time that someone can wire your skin in a single evening, and that love arrives not by accumulating to a moment, like a drop of water focused on the tip of a branch — it is not the moment of bringing your whole life to another — but rather, it is everything you leave behind. At that moment.

Even that night, the night he touched one inch of her in the dark, how simply Avery seemed to accept the facts — that they were on the edge of lifelong happiness and, therefore, inescapable sorrow. It was as if, long ago, a part of him had broken off inside, and now finally, he recognised the dangerous fragment that had been floating in his system, causing him intermittent pain over the years. As if he could now say of that ache: "Ah. It was you."


From The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels ©2011. Published by McClelland & Stewart. 

Other books by Anne Michaels