Sixteen-year-old Albert Fraser believes that serving in the First World War will make him a man. What he doesn’t realize is the type of man he will become, until a shell blast buries him alive in a trench at the Somme. Albert emerges from the war with a driving need to fill the empty spaces left by the shrapnel that continues to burrow beneath his skin. Back home in Vancouver, he works to keep busy and when the Great Depression hits, he rides the rails and takes jobs as they come, eventually finding his way to the Yukon. But with no real place to call home, he seems destined to wander aimlessly.
When the Spanish Civil War erupts, he seeks out Picasso’s Guernica and sees in the painting a reflection of what his life has become. Now he travels to Spain, a soldier once more, to reclaim all he has lost — or to die trying.
“By turns lyrical and relentless in its unvarnished depiction of the impact of war, Underground offers a timely read as soldiers and civilians perish daily in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere on the planet. ”
“It took Hutton seven years to write this book. It was worth the wait … The story didn’t lose its track, and Hutton’s poetic writing never lost its appeal throughout. ”
“Hutton’s writing features visceral, sensual language and themes, along with a compelling protagonist readers will find it easy to identify with. ”
“Impressionistic, psychologically astute. ”
“Hutton’s Underground is every bit as important (and well-delivered) as those by her male colleagues. With this book, she’s not only broken new ground, she’s written an important addition to Canada’s literary canon of peace and war. ”
“Once finished, I returned to it in idle moments, not to begin the review but to read for pleasure; let the pages fall open, pick a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter to savour … It’s that kind of story … Hutton’s prose is taut, lean, elegant and poetic … Its exploration of a man’s creative defiance and ability to embrace his own imperfect life plumbs the intrinsic qualities of art, poetry, human geography, chance and love. ”
“Brilliantly conceieved, totally convinving and a kin to the works of an early Steinbeck. ”
“June Hutton has found poetry in the underground worlds of wartime trenches, Chinatown tunnels, depression-era work camps, and the bomb craters of the Spanish Civil War. In this novel, Al Fraser’s remarkable story has been given voice by a wise and generous writer. ”
— Jack Hodgins, author of <i>Broken Ground</i> and <i>Distance</i>
“A lean book that covers a wide swath of historical territory. ”