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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

The Fading Of Scots-Canadian Identity

No Great Mischief - Alistair MacLeod

Set in Cape Breton in the nineteen seventies, No Great Mischief revolves around the visit of a successful orthodontist to his alcoholic brother eking out a miserable existence in a sqalid room above a shop in Toronto.

The visit is the starting point for a narrative that follows the fortunes of a group of Scots-Canadians descended from one legendary eighteenth century immigrant. Hardy and tightly-knit in the face of recurring tragedy, the extended family see themselves and the rest of the world with reference to their group identity. But it's an identity that is being eroded by modernity and the book is an elegy to the last generation of the clan to understand itself in this way.

The robust storytelling is woven around with imagery that explores the book's central themes of leadership, community, intransigence and betrayal. Poignant and intelligently written, this is a book quite unlike much contemporary fiction in that its concerns are not only with the personal but also with community.