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The Paperboy’s Winter

by Tim Bowling

Poet Tim Bowling’s intensely interiorized story of 10-year-old Callum Taylor often reads more like a personal memoir than a typical coming-of-age novel, which is both a good and a bad thing. The intense memories of young Callum’s world growing up in a fishing village on B.C.’s Fraser River are interpreted to readers through the memories and perceptions of 30-year-old Callum.

The older Callum’s narrative reflections are sparked by his return to his childhood home after the death of his father and his subsequent encounter with a familiar face from the past. The reader is treated to two very different worlds as a result – one via the boyish remembrances of a young comic-book collecting Callum, the other via the sombre perspective of a grown man. In both cases, Bowling takes great care to craft his characters, especially in the memory sections, where a group of eccentrics manage to shock, confuse, inform, or otherwise touch the impressionable young Callum in his day-to-day exploits.

Bowling’s sense of place gives the tale even more clarity. Smells, sounds, sights, and feelings combine to evoke a West Coast landscape that is startlingly real, and Callum’s journeys take him to places – the paper shack, the Haunted Bookstore, his school and classrooms, the wharf, a treehouse high in a Douglas Fir – that all come alive on the page.

These strong points are weakened by the novel’s overarching framework, which seems suprefluous to the story of Callum’s boyhood. The father’s death does little more than cue the childhood memories, and little is learned about the older Callum’s life. Furthermore, having the adult Callum looking back over the years from such a sombre viewpoint ultimately dilutes the vividness of the child’s perspective.


Reviewer: Darren Alexander

Publisher: Penguin Books Canada


Price: $24

Page Count: 274 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-14-301228-2

Issue Date: 2003-1

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Fiction: Novels