Stunt enchants The Coast

By Laura Kenins
The Coast
October 16 2008

I've always felt a kinship to Claudia Dey, both of us being right-brained alumni of the same lawyer- and engineer-producing high school. The florid style of her plays and her Globe and Mail advice column has a timeless, nearly ethereal quality. Stunt, her first novel, brings to mind the poetry of Gwendolyn Mac-Ewen (the subject of Dey's play The Gwendolyn Poems) or prose of British author Jeanette Winterson, with its mythological allusions and shape-shifting characters.

Nine-year-old Eugenia is devastated when her beloved, scatterbrained artist father leaves the family. When her mother runs off as well, she and her sister double in age overnight. On a quest to find the truth, on a quest for the sake of it, Eugenia turns lakeside Toronto into a fictional land, and though the ending's not surprising, it's the journey that's the point.

Dey's poetic voice flourishes in her columns and plays, but at times grows unwieldy in a novel. As a child narrator, Eugenia is unconvincing, her language too accomplished, insights too insightful---so it's fitting when she is suddenly grown.

Populated by tightrope walkers, washed-up actresses, mysterious neighbours and elaborate, improbable names, Stunt is a delicate, spinning carousel of a book, a sort of urban epic or Canadian magic realism.

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