The Shadow Boxer

Posted on Mar 26, 2010 | 0 comments

Just finished reading The Shadow Boxer, Steven Heighton’s first novel. 

It is an enjoyable read, becoming a page-turner as the reader gets drawn into the main character’s torment.

I’m inspired and a little daunted by the richness of the prose, so densely packed with poetry and evocative metaphor.  It’s interesting, but not surprising, how you can so easily spot the novels of writers who are poets first.  I’ve heard Helen Humphreys say that she doesn’t write so much stand-alone poetry anymore because it has an outlet in her fiction.  Her novels are infused and embroidered with poetry.  As with Steven Heighton’s prose.

The passion and resolute romanticism of the protagonist, Sevigne, reminds me a lot of a friend, a poet, also living and writing in Toronto.

The intense and gripping description of Sevigne’s year on Rye Island, nearly freezing to death, evoked the stories of the early northern explorers, Franklin, Hornsby, Edgar Christian, et al, that I read about recently in Whalley’s book.

Also, I very much enjoyed the descriptions of Northern Ontario and in particular The Soo.  I have many fond memories of The Soo, home to most of my extended family on my mother’s side.

What I appreciate most about Steven Heighton, in everything I’ve read by him including The Shadow Boxer, is his dedication to the finer human qualities, while acknowledging the prevalance of cynicism, irony, and all the many impediments to decency people face every day.  He chooses to highlight the occasions of righteousness anyway, despite the fact it might be considered unfashionable or quaint. 

This earnestness, so refreshing and so welcome, is most evident, I think, in his collection of essays entitled The Admen Move On Lhasa.  The trait is there in his fiction as well, it’s just more subtle.

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