P.G. Downes: Sleeping Island (N. Ferrisburg, VT: Heron Dance Press, 2004)
I had been wanting to read this book since I had read others by P.G. Downes, but copies of this particular out-of-print book were a bit difficult to locate. I finally found a used copy at a reasonable price and quickly read it. It is, as are other books by Downes, a wonderful adventure about the Great Barren Lands of North Canada.
The time just before and just after the Second World War were years of opening of the great Canadian Barrens. Previously largely inaccessible, the advent of airplanes and outboard motors made travel over longer distances possible and gave new access to extremely remote places. P.G. Downes seemed to have the ability to not only undertake the still-great adventures, but also to forge connections with the people.
In this book Downes is not so much making the report of a trip, which he does, but more importantly making a plea for a way of life that was rapidly disappearing, with a great deal of human suffering accompanying the disappearance. It is more than a book about exciting wilderness canoe travel. It is a book about the people Downes met along the way. Respect for the people and love of the land are qualities that ring through Downes words.
The book is, in many ways, a classic. I’m glad I found a copy to read and to own.