*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Lost in September
Author: Kathleen Winter
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
As a young soldier in his twenties, the historical James Wolfe (1727-1759) was granted a short and much longed-for leave to travel to Paris to study poetry, music and dance–three of his passions. But in that very year, 1752, the British Empire abandoned the Julian calendar for the Gregorian, and every citizen of England lost eleven days: September 2 was followed by September 14. These lost eleven days happened to occur during the period that Wolfe had been granted for his leave. Despondent and bitter, he never got the chance to explore his artistic bent, and seven short years later, on the anniversary of this foreshortened leave, he died on the Plains of Abraham. Now, James is getting his eleven days back . . . but instead of the salons of 18th century Paris, he’s wandering the streets of present-day Montreal and Quebec City, not as “the Hero of Quebec” but as a damaged war veteran wracked with anguish.
Kathleen Winter is a beautiful writer and in her newest story, Lost in September, she takes a look at the history of General James Wolfe and his actions in Quebec and on the Plain of Abraham in contrast with Jimmy, an ex-soldier suffering with PTSD as he roams the streets of modern Quebec. The story moves fluidly between the Eighteenth-Century and present day, confusing and conflating the two as James/Jimmy tries to figure out the missing 11 days that citizens lost when Britian switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. This story breathes life into the neighbourhoods of Quebec, so thoroughly descriptive of so many places, both historically and currently. This story is as much about the place as it is about the history and the characters.
I enjoyed the complicated exploration that Winter achieves in this book. Jimmy believes himself to be General Wolfe for these eleven days, but one can argue that James Wolfe inhabits his doppleganger’s person for these days, tormented by the anguish of losing his days of leave. The perspective often shifts to a historical approach so the reader believes that they are in fact viewing Wolfe himself, but in the next moment, he’ll slip up and we’ll know that we in fact are seeing Jimmy. The two are interwoven. In Jimmy’s lack of knowledge of self, we cannot rely on his story to be the truth, thus we must piece together his and Wolfe’s stories through the eyes of other characters. This lack of reliability really reflects the character’s fragmented state and sucks the reader into his suffering and anxiety, making his experience much more accessible and realistic.
I will say, I did find the story to be lagging at times. There’s not a lot happening in the middle, other than intense characterization which falls a bit flat with not a lot of action taking place. Because of this, I found the middle to be a bit slow going. I can’t say I found it to be a gripping story. More an interesting musing on a moment in history. However, this book is compelling and different than many historical fictionalizations that you’ll read. It takes a refreshing approach to present a story that perhaps is less well known. Myself, I was not familiar with the details surrounding general Wolfe and I found this book to be an excellent prompt to do a little bit of research and learn a little more.