Govier, Katherine. THREE VIEWS OF CRYSTAL WATER. 2006. HarperCollins. Toronto.

´The pearls of the oyster are divine. And they are found in the dimmest, deepest place in the world, under the scabbiest, tightest lid. That is their magic.´

Katherine Govier is one of Canada´s best novelists, but her work is not well—known, even here. Three Views of Crystal Water is her finest work to date and her portrayal of Japanese society and the nuances of personal and cultural interaction are wonderful. As is often the case in good fiction, history, geography, human behaviour are woven together in a tapestry of narrative, experience, characters and background.

WW2 intervenes in the life of a Canadian girl and the island community of pearl—divers where orphaned Vera has found home and love. The setting is exotic, and so are the stories about profession chosen by very few and known to few in the world outside the oysters´ treasure. The story gives an amazing history of the skill and dangers of pearl divers everywhere; but only in Japan are there ´Amas´;the special and strong women who chose to follow this risky career.

Vera is forced by war to return to Canada, wrenched from her only family. Even within the community there are divisions among the residents about the war. It is an insight into how we think of the ´enemy´, a concept of a monolithic society with no differences of opinion and conviction. Yet we recognize those differences within our own society. In Japan in wartime, these views were dangerous but Govier poignantly reveals how not everyone stops thinking or feeling during wartime. In today´s political climate in Canada many who oppose our war against
Afghanistan are also considered ´traitors.´

This sensitive work of fiction about attitudes and pressures sixty—five years ago seem very relevant today. Why is it that most people long for love, acceptance, and community but are so willing to be divided and blinded by our greedy and cruel leaders? Three Views of Crystal Water poses these and many questions about life and holds the reader right to the very end and leaves her with many powerful images and insights to ponder and recall.

Filed under Book Reviews, Katherine Govier