Who Has Seen the Wind

Who Has Seen the Wind

Book - 1991
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When W.O. Mitchell died in 1998 he was described as "Canada's best-loved writer." Every commentator agreed that his best -- and his best-loved -- book was Who Has Seen the Wind. Since it was first published in 1947, this book has sold almost a million copies in Canada. As we enter the world of four-year-old Brian O'Connal, his father the druggist, his Uncle Sean, his mother, and his formidable Scotch grandmother ("she belshes…a lot"), it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary book. As we watch Brian grow up, the prairie and its surprising inhabitants like the Ben and Saint Sammy -- and the rich variety of small-town characters -- become unforgettable. This book will be a delightful surprise for all those who are aware of it, but have never quite got around to reading it, till now.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1991
ISBN: 9780771060786
0771060785
9780770513245
0770513247
Branch Call Number: FIC Mitch 05ad 01
Characteristics: 333 p. :,ill
Additional Contributors: Kurelek, William 1927-1977

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r
rpavlacic
Nov 23, 2015

Think rural Saskatchewan at its worst during the Great Depression. That pretty much is the basic plot of Who Has Seen the Wind. W.O. Mitchell would write some more popular books including Jake and the Kid and another about a curling match with the devil as one of the opponents.

But WHSTW is so much more than a novel about the Dirty Thirties. The best and worst of characters are found in here - from the most tolerant of characters to the most bigoted, and some who simply refuse to change.

My favourite required reading in high school - even more so than The Glass Menagerie or To Kill a Mockingbird - in that order. Luckily my Grade 12 English teacher provided so much context behind the story which added to the experience.

If you get this book out, try to find an "unexpurgated" edition. Most copies sold in Canada and the US actually uses the 1947 US version which is about 5000 words shorter than Mitchell's original text and leaves out a lot of colour that enriches the story. I only discovered the longer version after I left high school. It's worth the extra time.

One last thought - during the 90s there was a show on TV called "Road to Avonlea". One episode had the author of this book as a guest star playing a curmudgeon stuck in quarantine with two of the main characters during a measles outbreak. His presentation was priceless.

One of my most recommended books.

w
wyenotgo
Aug 27, 2015

Given the enormous reputation of the author and of this book in particular, I found it diappointing. Certainly, the imagery and lyricism are outstanding; so as a book of prose it sits at the head of the class. And Mitchell's portrayal of the socially oppressive environment of a prairie town rang true -- perhaps a Western variant of Davies' Deptford with all its local petty tyrants and their victims.
But that failed to make it an enjoyable story -- in fact there's not much story at all, just a set of character studies. Mitchell goes to great lengths to make his main character real and appealing but in the end he's just an overly-sensitive child whose fancies appear to spring from his Irish ancestry. The other characters are mostly archetypes -- the aging schoolteacher posing as a philosopher, the frustrated younger teacher who can't get her love life sorted out, the town drunk/bootlegger, Mrs Abercrombie the tryannical self-appointed arbiter of social standing. Apart from the outrageous madman Saint Sammy, we've met them all before in small towns.
To sum up: A beautifully written book about not very much.

n
nsbookclub
Jul 22, 2012

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jyawn
Aug 03, 2015

People were forever born; people forever died, and never were again. Fathers died and sons were born; the prairie was forever, with its wind whispering through the long and endless silence. Winter came and spring and fall, then summer and winter again; the sun rose and set again, and everything that was once, was again - forever and forever. But for man, the prairie whispered - never - never.

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