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A Century of November
Cover of A Century of November
A Century of November
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

This is the tale of Charles Marden, an apple grower and judge who sets off from his Vancouver Island home on an impulsive journey to Belgium, where his son, an Allied soldier in the First World War, has just died in battle at the very end of the war. Marden's single-minded mission: finding the exact spot where his son was killed.

Across western Canada the Spanish flu rages—the very disease that claimed Marden's wife three weeks earlier. Upon arriving in England, he learns that his son left behind a pregnant girlfriend. Soon his search widens to include locating the girl, too. Nearing the front lines, Marden seems to descend into the fires of hell as he navigates the mine-strewn killing fields of the trenches, still reeking with poison gas. Will he find the girl, and will he find an answer to the forces that drove him halfway around the world?

"Gripping, damning, and transfixing." —Entertainment Weekly

" ...possesses a time-bending gravity...[A] small classic of graceful language and earned emotion." —San Francisco Chronicle

"...a beautifully written novel of war and the wrenching grief and unanswerable questions it leaves in its wake...A Century of November is full of precise, startling imagery and elegant, richly poetic description—Wetherell seems genuinely incapable of writing a lazy sentence—and this last section of the novel is as surreal, hypnotic and harrowing as any literature in recent memory. The whole thing, in fact, is a jewel, an unforgettable historical novel that Wetherell has carefully (and artfully) seeded with loads of contemporary resonance." —Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"A poignant, probing story...Wetherell's prose and character writing are unflinching... [and his] take on a parent's anguish is deeply moving." —Publishers Weekly

"A timely reminder of the devastation of mortal combat..." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This is the tale of Charles Marden, an apple grower and judge who sets off from his Vancouver Island home on an impulsive journey to Belgium, where his son, an Allied soldier in the First World War, has just died in battle at the very end of the war. Marden's single-minded mission: finding the exact spot where his son was killed.

Across western Canada the Spanish flu rages—the very disease that claimed Marden's wife three weeks earlier. Upon arriving in England, he learns that his son left behind a pregnant girlfriend. Soon his search widens to include locating the girl, too. Nearing the front lines, Marden seems to descend into the fires of hell as he navigates the mine-strewn killing fields of the trenches, still reeking with poison gas. Will he find the girl, and will he find an answer to the forces that drove him halfway around the world?

"Gripping, damning, and transfixing." —Entertainment Weekly

" ...possesses a time-bending gravity...[A] small classic of graceful language and earned emotion." —San Francisco Chronicle

"...a beautifully written novel of war and the wrenching grief and unanswerable questions it leaves in its wake...A Century of November is full of precise, startling imagery and elegant, richly poetic description—Wetherell seems genuinely incapable of writing a lazy sentence—and this last section of the novel is as surreal, hypnotic and harrowing as any literature in recent memory. The whole thing, in fact, is a jewel, an unforgettable historical novel that Wetherell has carefully (and artfully) seeded with loads of contemporary resonance." —Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"A poignant, probing story...Wetherell's prose and character writing are unflinching... [and his] take on a parent's anguish is deeply moving." —Publishers Weekly

"A timely reminder of the devastation of mortal combat..." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 18, 2004
    Wetherell (Morning
    ; Chekhov's Sister
    ) traces the arc of a father's loss in this poignant, probing story about a Canadian judge who journeys from Vancouver to the European battlefield where his son died during the waning days of WWI. Charles Marden is a widower quietly absorbed in his life as a rural magistrate, but his foreboding is also revealed immediately: "He judged men and he grew apples and it was a perilous autumn for both." When he learns that his son, William, has been killed in battle, he immediately decides to visit his grave. Marden is initially denied permission to visit Flanders by the British authorities, but the sudden end of the war changes his situation, and his journey becomes more urgent when he learns that William had impregnated a girl from Belfast, Elaine Reed, who is already in Europe at the battle site. The plot takes several odd, macabre turns once Marden reaches the village where William died, especially when he has to make a deal with a shell-shocked soldier in order to visit the exact death site and learn the particulars of William's final hours. Wetherell's prose and character writing are unflinching, and the final meeting between Marden and Reed is gut-wrenching. Though the novel travels a well-trodden route, Wetherell's take on a parent's anguish is deeply moving.

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    University of Michigan Press
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A Novel
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