The Canal House by Mark Lee

the-canal-houseI’ve been on a bit of a journalism kick and the plot of Lee’s novel intrigued me. Photojournalist Nicky Bettencourt thinks he’s seen everything until he teams up with the daring and shrewd war correspondent Daniel McFarland.

Daniel knows how to get information out of officials who won’t talk. He knows how to judge the gravity of a situation in a war torn area (it’s a bad sign when the dogs are gone). He knows how to get to the heart of a story and emerge unscathed. To Daniel, getting the story is everything. And now, for Nicky, that means going into some terrifying territory.

It’s not long before all three are called to Indonesia and to the center of a war zone. It’s here, finally, that Daniel must choose between the story of a lifetime and the people whose lives hang in the balance; that Julie the doctor must decide how much she’s willing to risk; and that Nicky must understand who makes life worth living.

I really liked how this book shifted from the point of view of Nicky, the photojournalist, to Julia, the doctor.

“But everything was simpler there [at the refugee camp]: you never thought about how you looked and what you should wear, you never had to deal with rush hour and over drafts at your bank, there were no hospital administrators criticizing how much time you spent with a patient. There were so many ambiguities back home, so many compromises. Life was difficult at a refugee camp, but easier too.” (pg. 60)

The beginning of this book and the end of this book kept me wanting more. It was the middle I had to trudge through. The novel moved as thought Lee didn’t know how to move his characters from Africa to Indonesia. It was like time had stop and he was trying to shove as much character information down his readers’ throats before he continued.

“When everything is falling apart, look for the man wearing a clean shirt. A clean shirt means he’s either disciplined or resourceful.” (pg. 264)

It was good, not quite amazing. But still I liked it.

Book Mentioned:

  • Lee, Mark. The Canal House. New York: Algonquin Books, 2004. Print. 368 pgs. ISBN: 1565123794. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Algonquin Books. Retrieved: May 1, 2008.


  1. This one sounds pretty interesting. I’m glad to know that switching between multiple narrator viewpoints worked, because a lot of books fail in this way. I’ve never heard of this book or this author before, but you’ve made me want to look into it more!


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