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Best and worst of new B.C. fiction

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Rain Before Morning

By Michael Poole

Harbour Publishing, 2006

319 pages, $24.95

Empress of Asia

By Adam Lewis Schroeder

Raincoast Books, 2006

409 pages, $29.95

Reviewed by Vivian Moreau

“We publish too many books in Canada,” Raincoast Books publisher Allan MacDougall told me recently. “We should be publishing fewer books and of better quality,” he said.

Can there ever be too many books, I wondered at the time? After wading through some of this fall’s new books I have to concede a grudging yes. There can never be too many good books, but there can be too many books on bookstore shelves that would have better been left unpublished.

One such book to avoid this fall is Michael Poole’s Rain Before Morning (Harbour, 2006). Established in the early 1970s by publisher Howard White, Harbour is a Sechelt-based publishing house devoted to saving B.C.’s natural and social history. Series such as Raincoast Chronicles have preserved B.C.’s under-rated West Coast life and Harbour has consistently produced bestselling non-fiction like Chris Czajkowski’s Cabin at Singing River and Ian and Karen McAllister’s The Great Bear Rainforest . But Rain Before Morning doesn’t live up to Harbour’s lineage with its limpid story of two young lovers pushed apart in early 20 th -century rural maritime B.C.

This is a first novel for Poole, a journalist and filmmaker, who wrote the quixotic Romancing Mary Jane: A Year in the Life of a Failed Marijuana Grower (Greystone, 2000). Rain’s two main characters, half-native Nathan who aspires to be a fisheries scientist (did B.C. have fisheries scientists 100 years ago?), and Leah, convent-raised and rebelling against backwoods parents (original hippies but religious education advocates — say what?), are inconsistent and unbelievable. Dialogue rings of 2003 not 1913 as Nathan and Leah plod through a hampered plot wherein the lovers after a rambunctious liaison — “Soon, my love, I’ll let you know. Believe me, I’m just as horny as you are.” — are separated by events of the time.

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