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From award-winning author Fred Stenson comes a richly evocative new novel, at once brutal and tender, spare of language, and profoundly moving.
The Great Karoo begins in 1899, as the British are trying to wrest control of the riches of South Africa from the Boers, the Dutch farmers who claimed the land. The Boers have turned out to be more resilient than expected, so the British have sent a call to arms to their colonies—and an a great number of men from the Canadian prairies answer the call and join the Canadian Mounted Rifles: a unit in which they can use their own beloved horses. They assume their horses will be able to handle the desert terrain of the Great Karoo as readily as the plains of their homeland. Frank Adams, a cowboy from Pincher Creek, joins the Rifles, along with other young men from the ranches and towns nearby—a mix of cowboys and mounted policeman, who, for whatever reason,…[more]
In 1822, Edward Harriott, a Hudson’s Bay Company clerk on the North Saskatchewan River, began his greatest adventure in the fur trade, an expedition to the Bow and Missouri Rivers in search of new sources of beaver. A young man, he was full of promise and full of love for his Metis cousin Margaret. But something went wrong. The expedition failed and the new fur trade Governor unfairly blamed Harriort. When the Governor took a fancy to Harriott’s Margaret, misfortune deepened into disaster.
Written between the lines of recorded history, The Trade fictionalizes the lives of Harriott and Margaret, of Harriott’s powerful friend Chief Factor One Pound One and of the enigmatic Jimmy Jock Bird, a former-Governor’s Metis son who left the Company orbit to become a war chief with the Missouri Piegan. As the wheel of history turns, they are joined by a Methodist missionary and by an artist from York who hopes to achieve fame through his depictions of fur trade life. Far from British justice, their lives are ruled by the price of beaver and the supply of buffalo meat, by notions of territory guaranteed only by threat and force, and by the Governor’s often vindictive exercise of power.