Consolation revolves around a set of glass photographic negatives (and their prints) that bear images of early Toronto. The glass plates were being returned from an exhibition in London when the boat they were on sank. These plates may or may not exist…
The narrative alternates between two different times, present-day (1997) Toronto and Toronto in the mid- 1850s. The characters involved are all prevented somehow from doing what they feel they were meant to do with their lives. Different as they are, the two sets of characters form integral parts of the story that parallel and mesh across their chronology. Marianne Hollis and John Lewis know they must witness the test of her late husband’s theory because—even if David’s supposition is true—present concerns may prevent the plates’ existence from ever being properly verified. In the storyline involving the past, former apothecary Jem Hallam and widow Claudia Rowe take over the work of photographer Samuel Ennis by several accidents of fate.
Author Michael Redhill has fashioned a story that shifts easily between past and present, though his novel’s finest moments are found within the 19th century passages. His characters suffer the absence of family yet manage to find strength beyond. Through the book’s fascinating journey, Redhill shows us that how we look at the past can tell us much about ourselves.