Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

The Peacekeeper’s Teahouse

by Larry Gaudet

Larry Gaudet’s second novel is part cultural-political commentary, part academic love story. The Peacekeeper’s Teahouse is told by Elliot MacDonald, a retired UN constitutional negotiator. After years of service as a frontline spin-doctor, sanitizing coups and military transitions in such war-ravaged sites as Kosovo, he has retreated like a shell-shocked veteran to his makeshift teahouse in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood. There he attempts to find meaning in ritual (he obsesses over the applications, varieties, and preparation of tea), while working on a shrine-in-progress to the murdered daughter of a long-time friend.

MacDonald is an obsessive. He obsesses over his tea. He obsesses over the young woman’s murder and his own paradoxical role in the UN. When superficial yuppie friends ask him to negotiate a reasonable outcome to their marital breakdowns, he obsesses over that too. There’s also the Caribbean banana republic nation of Mandela to think about, site of his most recent UN posting and the birthplace of the gunman who killed his friend’s daughter.

The characters are savvy, especially MacDonald, the dialogue is hip and provocative, and the settings and local references are fun to explore, especially for those familiar with Toronto. Unfortunately, despite a torrent of reflective concepts and ideas, Gaudet fails to convince us that these characters and themes were ever meant to come together. Each is delivered with a liberal dose of thematic ingenuity, but the narrative contends with so many ideas that the characters and plot ultimately suffer.

The nature of love, the nature of relationships, the nature of reality in a media-saturated society, and the nature of global conflict and resolution are all admittedy grand explorations. But they’re performed too often here at the expense of narrative cohesion.