Jane Urquhart’s historical novel, The Stone Carvers is about ordinary people dealing with the aftermaths of the Great War and the building of the Canadian War Memorial in Vimy, France. Set in the backdrop of Bavaria, to the countryside of Ontario, and then to France, the characters go to great lengths to overcome the limitations of their mundane lives by building or sculpting monuments to immortalize their past. Father Gstir erects a great stone church in the woods to proclaim his Bavarian religion; Joseph Becker and his son Dieter sculpt beautiful religious statutes to remember past saints, Walter Allward’s builds a colossal memorial in honour of the lives sacrificed in the war. It is via her talent as a wood carver that Klara Becker is able to pay tribute to her past lover whose body has never been found.
There is great movement in the story: immigrants leaving their homes to start over in a new continent, time speeding by and leaving your old self behind—somewhere, some time, you must pause and remember the past or else you will get lost in your journey. Tilman Becker, Klara’s brother who has refused at a young age to be tied to any single place, follows the great flocks of birds as they move over vast areas of the countryside. How long can he survive alone before his past claims him back?
This is a novel of powerful imagery—essential reading for the history buff and lovers of redemptive story telling.