Margaret Craven Valentine Cunningham - Essay

Valentine Cunningham

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In I Heard the Owl Call My Name a dying Anglican vicar is sent to minister to some British Columbian Indians, and to be made the occasion of many an easy reflection on how much he has got to learn to become truly Christian, as they are. The novel goes in for the sort of religiosity common to ages of unbelief. This coyly tear-jerking administration for the simpler life has already earned itself the screenplay fictions like this are usually designed to become. (p. 163)

Valentine Cunningham, "Unsmiling," in New Statesman (© 1974 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 88, No. 2263, August 2, 1974, p. 163.

[In I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Mark] meets the simple natural life of an unsophisticated people—a people however who have their own problems and difficulties, pin-pointed in particular by the yearning of the younger generation for a different kind of life and a new environment. Their breaking away and their encounter with modern city life contrasts strikingly with the life they have left, but it is the life they have left which makes the most powerful impression upon the reader, and challenges his ideas, feelings and beliefs…. This very quiet, thoughtful and unusual book, and the writing itself, matches the visionary and poetic quality of the author's faith…. There are no hard definitions of place and character which tends to give at times a somewhat ethereal quality to the scene, but there is enough of the stridency of modern life to be seen clearly in the background to give the foreground its intended impact and emphasise the message of the book. (pp. 377-78)

"For the Intermediate Library: 'I heard the Owl Call My Name'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 38, No. 6, December, 1974, pp. 377-78.