Much of the action of The Mountain and the Valley takes place within the growing consciousness of the protagonist, who reads novels that have “more to do with the shadow of thought and feelings which actions cast than with the actions themselves.” These cerebral actions reflect David Canaan’s and Ernest Buckler’s own mental processes, their concern with precision in thought and expression, their quest for the right word.
As the novel opens, David stands at his kitchen window and stares at the highway and mountain that represent his life’s goal beyond the village or valley of Entremont, where he has lived for thirty years. Behind him, his elderly grandmother is engaged in hooking together a rug from rags and cast-off garments that once belonged to various members of the Canaan family. While the opening and closing frames (“Prologue” and “Epilogue”) repeat this scene of isolation, the intervening sections of the novel consist of a series of flashbacks revealing incidents from the past within this agricultural community in Nova Scotia.
As a child, David always looked forward to climbing the mountain, but when he begins his ascent with his father and brother, they cannot proceed because of an accident in which two men from their community have been killed. Both drowned men, it turns out, were the fathers of David’s and his brother Chris’s girlfriends, Effie and Charlotte. The ever-sensitive David is drawn closer to Effie in her sorrow, and during the school Christmas play he kisses her onstage, much to her surprise and to the heckling of...
(The entire section is 650 words.)