The Back of the Turtle

The Back of the Turtle

A Novel

Book - 2014 | First edition
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Winner of the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction!

This is Thomas King's first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and bestselling The Inconvenient Indian and his beloved Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, both of which continue to be taught in Canadian schools and universities. Green Grass, Running Water is widely considered a contemporary Canadian classic.

In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel's sister. The reserve is deserted after an environmental disaster killed the population, including Gabriel's family, and the wildlife. Gabriel, a brilliant scientist working for Domidion, created GreenSweep, and indirectly led to the crisis. Now he has come to see the damage and to kill himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her, and soon is saving others. Who are these people with their long black hair and almond eyes who have fallen from the sky?

Filled with brilliant characters, trademark wit, wordplay and a thorough knowledge of native myth and story-telling, this novel is a masterpiece by one of our most important writers.

Publisher: Toronto, Ontario :, HarperCollins Canada,, [2014]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9781443431620
Branch Call Number: F KIN
Characteristics: 518 pages : illustration ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Phil_R Jun 14, 2016

Has the tone, atmosphere, humour, and mystery of a good Murakami novel, except Toronto is the Tokyo, coastal Japan is coastal BC, and rural Osaka is rural Alberta. The short efficient sentences and short chapters make it a real gripper. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Interesting but difficult to read if one is not into magical reality style of writing

Oct 13, 2015

CBC's Dead Dog Cafe was my introduction to Thomas King followed by The Inconvenient Indian and now this book. others are on my 'to read' list.

I enjoy his seriousness mixed with humour as he presents difficult topics with an amusing twist, provoking us to new ways of looking at our country and our world.

brianreynolds Jun 18, 2015

Thomas King's The Back of the Turtle is impressively, even enviably compelling in both style and content. The prose is light and the characters, both sympathetic and highly interesting. The plot is neatly comedic in form. The subject matter, however, aside from the romantic journey of a suicidal scientist and a grieving artist, is an environmental disaster and corporate sociopathy. Without pleading for a Margaret Attwood to leave my conscience scarred and a prayer that it may not be already too late to fix the planet, I have to say King's anti-dystopian ending felt a little too much like someone gently singing, "Don't worry; be happy" to a faintly Reggae beat.

May 31, 2015

Environmental disaster and greed on the part of big business are contrasted with the humanity of the First Nations peoples. This book has good politics and, in writing a very readable story about these themes, King is doing good politics. Less complex and not as good as some of his other books, but still recommended.

May 12, 2015

Could not finish it. Storyline much too slow and too much mythology and not enough action and characters.

Apr 23, 2015

I found this a disappointing read. Perhaps I didn't "get" it. I am fairly well educated - should I feel inferior? Read and decide for yourself.

Apr 16, 2015

A childish story, horrible writing; reads like a biblical parable.

bookwormabc Mar 05, 2015

The author writes very well, the characterizations are effectively drawn and the flashbacks are integrated so that the book flows smoothly and is a pleasure to read. The plot has, however, substantial holes in it, which the author cleverly glosses over. The book is more like a morality play: good (nature-loving First Nations) vs. evil (white capitalists). The book is also implicitly anti-science.
One should keep in mind That science and technology has extended our life expectancy tremendously, provided us with ample food and other goods, enriched our lives by communications and entertainment (including this book).

Jan 02, 2015

It's warm, witty and a cracking good story about family ties. It's got environmental disaster, greed, guilt and redemption. There are elements of First Nations and Christian mythology, plus nods to the Western literary canon. Thomas King is at the top of his game.

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