Big fish wannabe, very small pond

Bamfield Posh 
by Louis Druehl

Vancouver: Granville Island Publishing, 2024

$23.95 / 9781989467695

Reviewed by Jessica Poon

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A novel by western Vancouver Island author Louis Druehl, Bamfield Posh inspires a twist on the logically flawed if linguistically satisfying Tolstoy truism—all happy wives are myths; all unhappy wives are unhappy in their own way. 

The protagonist, Molly, is a war bride and a social climbing aspirant with a three-year-old son named Coho. She likes to sing and has a talent for mathematics. Her husband is a soldier with a reputation for cruelty. Her primary physical trait is “a slight favouring of a game right leg,” though she blatantly identifies herself a cripple, not least because she knows it’s what everyone is already thinking. 

Coming from England, Molly is skeptical yet also optimistic over her desire to become posh in Bamfield, British Columbia. The word posh is used incessantly, e.g. “This could be the posh I seek”; “Molly’s thoughts stirred with status, posh”; “And I wonder, are salmon and spuds to be part of my posh?” In other words, Druehl makes it impossible to forget that Molly longs for both material wealth and prestigious status. Though I hesitate to describe Molly as superficial—a perfectly ordinary and understandable human trait—the novel may have benefited from being told in first-person to better gauge her complexities.

Molly hasn’t had sex since the conception of Coho, which results in her eyeing both men and women through the lens of repressed salaciousness, such that I began to think the novel might become D.H. Lawrence with a bisexual twist. D.H. Lawrence this is not. Social inequality and racial divides do figure in the novel, but the primary source of drama is Molly’s past, present, and potential relationships. 

Author Louis Druehl

Bamfield Posh is attentively detailed when it comes to nature and setting. Denglish—interspersed German with English—is spoken frequently. Druehl (Cedar, Salmon and Weed) introduces myriad supporting characters; arguably, more than strictly necessary. Coho is perhaps the most capable three-year-old ever encountered in a novel. Molly’s husband’s uncle provides an impressive amount of free child care. 

When Mike, Molly’s husband returns from England, he is, against stereotype, not initially interested in ravishing Molly. Sexlessness and horniness continue. An esteemed soldier, in contrast to Molly’s husband, dies and there is a funeral. Molly ingratiates herself with Katrin Jonsson, an Icelandic beauty in possession of great ambitions. She gets a job as a cook. Every day provides some level of chaotic unpredictability. The prevailing questions: will Molly’s husband redeem himself with a personality transplant and mutually enthusiastic sex? Will Molly achieve the social standing of poshness she so desires? Will Molly ever get satisfactorily laid? 

Without spoiling anyone with specificity, stories that end with weddings are associated with comedies; however, there isn’t much humour to be found here. The prevailing mood is seriousness. The novel is not exactly in chronological order, as there are many flashbacks taking place in England meant to illuminate Molly’s past. 

The frequency of the flashbacks can be languorously listless. I almost longed for the linearity of chronological order, or failing that, brevity. 

The novel takes its time. I found myself wondering where my copy of Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing was, thinking it might help provide sustenance to continue reading Bamfield Posh. In the end, I didn’t need Odell. The dramatis personae of Molly’s life eventually became sufficient to hold my attention.

Privy though the reader is to Molly’s thoughts, they are often expository. But for those curious about wartime society in a remote coastal community deserving of a spotlight—or eager for plentiful descriptions of nature in a town where everyone knows everyone—this novel will suffice.

*

Jessica Poon and Wolfy

Originally from East Vancouver, Jessica Poon is a writer, former line cook, and pianist of dubious merit who recently returned to BC after completing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. [Editor’s note: Jessica Poon has reviewed books by Sheung-King, Loghan Paylor, Lisa Moore (ed.), Sandra Kelly, Robyn Harding, Ian and Will Ferguson, Christine Lai, Logan Macnair, Jen Sookfong LeeJ.M. Miro (Steven Price), Bri BeaudoinTetsuro ShigematsuKatie WelchMegan Gail Coles, and Ayesha Chaudhry for BCR]

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The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-25: Trevor Marc Hughes (nonfiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie


Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

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