The Shadow Boxer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Written in the dense, poetical style of Michael Ondaatje and Lawrence Durrell, The Shadow Boxer is a portrait of the artist as the young man. As a boy, Sevigne Torrins is happy, living with his father, a ship’s cook and former boxer and lover of poetry, his mother, and his brother on the Canadian coast of Lake Superior. Before long his happiness is disrupted when his mother leaves Sevigne’s now unemployed and alcoholic father and moves to Egypt.

After a brief time in Cairo, Sevigne returns to his father. As he grows into an uneasy young adulthood, he counterbalances his interests in poetry with boxing. The story of Sevigne’s long adolescence unfolds in lush prose: his first love, his estrangement from his brother and mother, his problems with college, and his life with his father at their small camp on Lake Superior. With the death of his father, however, Sevigne is thrust into the adult world of repercussions.

After trying to mend his relationship with his remaining family in Cairo, Sevigne moves to Toronto. There, he meets again with his school friend, Eddy, now the publisher and editor of a new literary magazine, who helps introduce Sevigne into the Bohemian world of Toronto’s literati. Sevigne soon gains a reputation and contracts to have a book of poems published even as he wrestles with an autobiographical novel. His infatuation for the gifted and promiscuous poet Una gives way to a deep yet troubled love for the older, rising folk musician Mikaela, and before long Sevigne has created a bevy of problems for himself. It is only with his year long retreat to his grandfather’s secluded and deserted cabin on an island in the middle of Lake Superior that he is finally able to gain a sense of who he is and who he may become.