When George Stewart, a political analyst for CBC radio, returns a call to a seedy Montreal hotel in the winter of 1950, he hears the voice of Jerome Martell, a gifted doctor and left-wing political activist who disappeared while serving with the Loyalists during the Spanish Civil War. Jerome was married to Catherine, who, assuming him dead, is now George’s wife. The reappearance of Jerome jogs George’s memory and triggers a series of flashbacks which explore his own past and the intense personalities of Jerome and Catherine Martell and the political milieu of Montreal during the 1930’s.
George’s role as the analytical radio commentator qualifies him as the natural narrator of the tale. The reader learns about his childhood with his father, an inept inventor who prefers playing with children to working for a living. The reader follows his teenage infatuation with Catherine, who was already afflicted by a rheumatic heart, and witnesses his inability to break free of his family to follow her to McGill University.
Much of the novel takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. George, unable to find suitable work after taking a degree in history, resorts to teaching at a private school. His weekend jaunts into Montreal bring him into association with a group of Socialists, some of whom are active members of the Communist Party. Among this group, he encounters the brilliant young surgeon Jerome Martell, now married to George’s...
(The entire section is 490 words.)