book cover for Underground by June HuttonUnderground by June Hutton covers the adulthood of Albert Fraser, a young man from BC. As Al grows and changes, the book follows his story, thoughts, and confusion in life. Sometimes I felt like the book lacked direction, but it is a difficult task to write a book following a character’s entire life.

The writing was poetic at times and often led to insights for Al that I never would have anticipated. It was an enjoyable book and I would be interested to read more of June Hutton’s work, but I’m not crazyexcited about Underground. I think the reason I’m not crazyexcited about the novel is because Al Fraser’s life is almost unbelieveable.

Sixteen-year-old Albert Fraser believes that enlisting in the First World War will make him a man. But a shell blast that buries him alive in a trench shatters his identity, instead.

Al emerges from the war with a driving need to act. Back home in Vancouver — with rising shrapnel in his flesh and nightmare images in his head — he works to keep busy. When the Great Depression hits, he rides the rails and scrabbles for jobs. After an accidental act of violence, he hides below the streets of Chinatown, and then heads north. With no place to call home he seems destined to wander aimlessly. But when the Spanish Civil War erupts, he seeks out Picasso’s Guernica and sees in the painting a reflection of what had been done to him, and what his life has become. Now, under a new name, he travels to Spain, a soldier once more, to reclaim all he has lost — or to die trying.

Both love story and social commentary, Underground examines the timeless human conditions of passion, conflict and hope. In its depiction of labour, from swinging picks on a Canadian mountainside to wielding scythes in a Spanish rye field, it is also a celebration of work and of the camaraderie of workers.

from | About Underground

June Hutton is one of the members of Vancouver’s SPiN Writing Group. The group was formed by June Hutton, Mary Novik and Jen Sookfong Lee to support each other while they were all writing their books. I am interested in reading The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee as I have already read and reviewed Conceit by Mary Novik.