Review: Drowning in Darkness

Drowning in Darkness Book Cover Drowning in Darkness
Peter Oliva
Cormorant Books

Edmonton Journal Editor's choice & 1993 Book of the YearThe Globe and Mail Editor's choice and one of 1993's Best Books of the Year.

Set in a coal-mining community in southern Alberta's Crowsnest Pass, this novel evokes elements of the fantastic which exist in the land itself, particularly in the gassy, bituminous coal-mines found in the Pass. While one might expect a mine's roof to fall, it is in fact the floor that continually heaves up under a miner's boots. The methane that seeps from the rock and circulates throughout a coal-mine creates this magic, able to soften coal or induce sleep and incite dreams. The mine's gas-marbled darkness and a story about a woman from southern Italy longing to escape the Pass bring about a fantastic/mythological suggestion that washes the reader of her tale right back to its beginning.

Not all mountain fiction books are about the top of mountains.

This novel takes us into the roots of a mountain, where the swirling methane of the coal faces bubble and loosen the black rock and the tunnels are braced not just to stop the roof from caving in but to prevent the floor from rising up. Such is the swirling world of the coal miner who works within the scentless and colourless fumes that bid dark dreams and lead men deep into the mountain well to their deaths.

Told from the point of view of Italian miners in the Crowsnest Pass, digging into the ill-fated Turtle Mountain before its huge north face gives way on the town.

For anyone who lives in a small mountain town, this is a must read.