The Vancouver Sun

June 9, 2011

Review by George McWhirter

An extremely fixed and clear idea, with such a singular structure and definite deadline for the conclusion of the work (the opening of the exhibit) could make this first novel altogether too mechanical. We might hear the clock tick off the check-marks for each stage completed—skeleton, organs, face, nose, mouth and eyes. Suspense could turn to deja-vu.

And indeed The Reconstruction is like a very good watch, with the difference that it is fastened to Margaret Fisher’s pulse. What puts the novel’s outcomes beyond predicting is Margaret’s heart, which beats truly, both in the present and prehistoric, in the wild tangles of her own neglected garden and the savannah grasses of Lucy’s Africa.

The richness and sensuality of Margaret’s thoughts and the poise and beauty of the language in this book keep it moving and prevent the manufactured parts from showing through. In this respect Claudia Casper’s novel is as successful as the model Margaret Fisher finishes on time for the opening.

In comparing human behaviour with the orangutang’s Margaret comes up with this insight: in place of the orangutangs picking through each other’s fur for fleas, we pick through each other’s conversations for gossip to chew on—the flaws, foibles and felicities. “Language is grooming,” Margaret muses, and the muse is right. That’s what we do. So much of this book is true. And the excitement lies in Margaret finding what we do and don’t know about ourselves as well as Margaret.