Miller, Almeda Glenn, Parameswaran, Uma, Herizons
by Almeda Glenn Miller
RAINCOAST BOOKS, 2002
Review by Uma Parameswaran
[Graph Not Transcribed]
One of the recurring themes in Canadian literature is the search for roots. When Claire Spencer's father dies, she realizes she knows nothing about her forebears. William Spencer had come from India to Canada via Britain and had spent his life forgetting India. His daughter, Claire, decides to spend her life trying to remember it.
Claire is a documentary filmmaker who lives in Calgary with David, a treaty Indian. They receive an arts grant to shoot a documentary in India that would play on the common histories shared by India and Canada at the hands of Britain: "land had been divided, burned, fractured; it had been fenced and bordered."
Her real aim is to retrieve her own personal history so she could find out why her father held her at a distance.
There are two layers of interleaved narrative. One is Claire's life in the present as she comes to terms with her father's sudden death. The other is Claire's recreation of her family history from 1910 to 1932. She discovers that her grandmother, Alice, had been a Gandhi-sympathizer and a friend to his followers. She rediscovers details about her grandfather, Denzil Spencer, who had been the superintendent of the prison at the time Gandhi was there. …