The Englishman's Boy: A Novel
The Englishman’s Boy brilliantly links together Hollywood in the 1920s with one of the bloodiest, most brutal events of the nineteenth-century Canadian West—the Cypress Hills Massacre. Vanderhaeghe’s rendering of the stark, dramatic beauty of the western landscape and of Hollywood in its most extravagant era—with its visionaries, celebrities, and dreamers—provides vivid background for scenes of action, adventure, and intrigue. Richly textured, evocative of time and place, this is an unforgettable novel about power, greed, and the pull of dreams that has at its centre the haunting story of a young drifter—“the Englishman’s boy”—whose fate, ultimately, is a tragic one.
Winner of the 1996 Governor General’s Award for fiction, The Englishman’s Boy is an extraordinary achievement. It’s a story within a story—a shimmering romance about the myth of movie-making in Hollywood in the 1920s and an account of a real-life massacre of First Nations people in Montana in the 1870s. Linking these two very different stories is Shorty McAdoo, an aging cowboy, who as a young man acted as a guide for the American and Canadian trappers who perpetrated the massacre and who is now going to be the subject of a no-holds-barred blockbuster set to rival D.W. Griffith’s epic Birth of a Nation. Vanderhaeghe attempts to break the spell of Hollywood as mythmaker, expose the terrible tragic reality that lurks behind this particular myth, and make readers look again at why we have bought into this mythos, both of the idealism of the American West and Hollywood. —Jeffrey Canton