Read Pastoral by André Alexis Online


There were plans for an official welcome. It was to take place the following Sunday. But those who came to the rectory on Father Pennant's second day were the ones who could not resist seeing him sooner. Here was the man to whom they would confess the darkest things. It was important to feel him out. Mrs Young, for instance, after she had seen him eat a piece of her macaroThere were plans for an official welcome. It was to take place the following Sunday. But those who came to the rectory on Father Pennant's second day were the ones who could not resist seeing him sooner. Here was the man to whom they would confess the darkest things. It was important to feel him out. Mrs Young, for instance, after she had seen him eat a piece of her macaroni pie, quietly asked what he thought of adultery.André Alexis brings a modern sensibility and a new liveliness to an age-old genre, the pastoral.For his very first parish, Father Christopher Pennant is sent to the sleepy town of Barrow. With more sheep than people, it's very bucolic—too much Barrow Brew on Barrow Day is the rowdiest it gets. But things aren't so idyllic for Liz Denny, whose fiancé doesn't want to decide between Liz and his more worldly mistress Jane, and for Father Pennant himself, who greets some miracles of nature—mayors walking on water, talking sheep—with a profound crisis of faith....

Title : Pastoral
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781552452868
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 162 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Pastoral Reviews

  • Matthew Quann
    2019-03-15 09:08

    First Book of Alexis' QuincunxA novel written with awe-inspiring grace and confidence.Before Trinidadian-born Canadian author André Alexis drew fame for his Giller-Prize Winning novel Fifteen Dogs, he began his ambitious Quincunx project with Pastoral. A quick visit to Wikipedia prior to my reading of the 160-page Pastoral gave me some insight into the Quincunx, and helped to contextualize the novel as part of a whole and an independent work. Alexis’ goal with the five novels is to “examine faith, place, love, power and hatred” (Wikipedia, Pastoral). Certainly a lofty goal, but one that Alexis seems more than capable of handling. Pastoral is a modern reimagining of the pastoral genre. Our shepherd here is Father Christopher Pennant who moves from the hubbub of Ottawa to the fictional rural town of Barrow. Christopher soon meets Lowther, a local caretaker, who seeks to challenge the young priest’s faith. Father Pennant also acts as intermediary in a Barrow love triangle that is at first humorous, but soon delves into a deeper examination about the nature of love. In particular, I loved the suggestion that people are tied to place in our memories. All the character interactions here lock into place beside one another, nothing ever feeling forced. It is my understanding that the pastoral seeks to take the complexity of urban life and move a character towards more simple rural existence. Of course, this interpretation also discounts seeming simplicity of life for simplicity of character and a dearth of complications. I thought that Alexis handled this deftly with characters that struggle with complex philosophical questions set against an idyllic background. Indeed, the imagery here is powerful and well-written. You’ll see the rolling hills and small streams where Father Pennant walks, and perhaps you’ll come close to recognizing the hair salon in which an act of public nudity takes place.The economy of words in this short novel means that no character, scene, or topic overstays their welcome. Instead, each part of Alexis’ novel is given the space to breathe between readings. Indeed, despite its brevity, I found myself delaying the ending if only because each reading stirred up a new thought, and each reading left me richer than before. What’s more, my reading of Fifteen Dogs last year helped inform my reading of Pastoral. Though the books are wildly different, they both deal in the same themes and seemed to stage a discussion with one another in my mind. With the Quincunx, it is as if Alexis is building a room where fiction is able to engage with itself in the mind of the reader. Alexis is helping to guide the reader through thoughts and philosophy using storytelling. Though each of the novels can be enjoyed on their own, when taken together, they elevate one another. Pastoral is a terrific novel and one that I’d recommend to any reader. If you enjoyed Fifteen Dogs, then this is worth your time. I also have a sneaking suspicion that those people who enjoy Stoner might also be partial to Pastoral. For those even more ambitious, there’s three of five books in the Quincunx that have been released.

  • Krista
    2019-03-20 10:06

    pas•to•ral adjective1. (especially of land or a farm) used for or related to the keeping or grazing of sheep or cattle.2. (in the Christian Church) concerning or appropriate to the giving of spiritual guidance.noun1. a work of literature portraying an idealized version of country life.With the full definition in hand, what might one expect from André Alexis's Pastoral? Sheep, a pastor, and a portrayal of idealized country life? Check, check, and check, we get all three. But Pastoral is also the common name for Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, and this book echoes the structure of the musical composition, having five movements that follow Beethoven's intent:1. Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country.2. Scene at the brook.3. Happy gathering of country folk.4. Thunderstorm; storm.5. Shepherd's song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm.And as I read on this blog, Alexis gave himself even more rules while writing this book:Pastoral is musical in structure. In every chapter, there are 5 elements that absolutely must be mentioned: bread, candle, sheep, prayer book, water. But the order in which they appear varies in this way:chapter one: a, b, c, d, echapter two: b, c, d, e, achapter three: c, d, e, a, bchapter four: d, e, a, b, cchapter five: e, a, b, c, dwhere a = bread, b = candles, c = sheep, d = prayer book, e = waterI want to include all of this information because, even though Pastoral is a mere 160 pages, there is meaning and purpose behind every word of it. Written in the Southern Ontario Gothic style (complete with mysteries, miracles, and small town interconnectiveness), the story is set in the fictional hamlet of Barrow (which itself is defined as: a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead) and use is made of that:The earth, which has only two words, intoned the first of them ('life') noisily, with birdsong, the gurgle and slap of rushing water, the suck and squelch of the ground itself. Not that its other word ('death') was banished. As they walked in a field, Father Pennant spotted a small clearing over which bleached animal bones (ribs, skulls, backbones and limbs) were strewn. Among and through the bones, young grass grew. It was like an open ossuary.This is Barrow as first seen by Father Pennant: a young priest taking on his first parish, who is initially disappointed by the rural setting; mistakenly thinking that small towns mean small problems, small impact. Soon enough, though, the priest is settled into the community, and even more important than the connections that he makes to the people of his parish are the connections that he makes to the natural surroundings, prompting a crisis of faith in which he can't decide on the relative primacy of God and Nature and Love.It occurred to him that Barrow itself was neither good nor evil but was, instead, animated by whatever it was that animated the land, the thing that animated each and every one of them and, so, revealed itself in its hiddenness. In fact, one felt, or he felt as he walked -- blasphemous though the thought was -- that God was only an aspect of the hidden, an idea brought into being by man in order to point to a deeper thing that had no name and reigned beyond silence.Pastoral is peopled with fascinating characters, and because of the book's length, the plot is necessarily tight and stripped down, covering just eight months (and for a book set in Canada, it's refreshing that it's the winter that's omitted). Dialogue is natural and, consistently, the writing is interesting and earthy.After Tomasine's burial, the ground in the graveyard was more dense than it had been, with another body -- like cold, curdled earth -- to digest. The currents of air that visited Barrow had one less person to circle or caress. And the wind as it blew through town made a sound ever so slightly altered. The ants had one less hazard, the birds one less predator, the worms one more meal.Needless to say, I enjoyed Pastoral very much.

  • Eggp
    2019-03-17 07:06

    Faith and love in doubtthere has to be more to lifesheep, for example.

  • Risa
    2019-03-20 10:05

    I started to readFifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis because a friend, who has similar reading tastes as I do, recommended it. Then, one of my book club members suggested that we read a series written by Alexis, starting with Pastoral. It’s not a usual series, whereby each book is linked. He calls it a quincunx and this is how he defines the series in an interview in The Globe and Mail by Mark Medley in September 2016 and updated in March 2017: “The Hidden Keys [his most recent book, published in September 2016] is actually the fourth book in the quincunx. Alexis explains it like this: Imagine the project like the number five on a dice – a dot in each corner, and one in the middle. The third book is the one in the middle, but it must include elements of the other four, so it must be written last. Once the fifth novel is finished, he wants to collect them in an omnibus edition.” I set aside Fifteen Dogs, which I was enjoying because it is very different and extremely well written, and read Pastoral. The book is set in a made-up bucolic town of 1,100 people in Ontario, Canada called Barrow. The main characters are Father Christopher Pennant who is the new priest of St. Mary’s church; Robbie Myers who is in love with two women - Elizabeth Denny, to whom he is engaged and Jane Richardson, with whom he is having an affair; Lowther Williams who insinuates himself into Father Pennant’s life as his cook, caretaker and becomes a close friend. I didn’t like Pastoral as much as I liked the 40 pages I had read of Fifteen Dogs. I guess that is why Alexis won the Giller Prize of $100,000 for the latter book. I do like the fact that his books are short as I am a slow reader and the goal I set for myself this year (2018) on GoodReads is to read 36 books since I met my goal of reading 24 books last year. Not much happens in Pastoral. Some (view spoiler)[make believe (hide spoiler)] miracles like moths flying a circle, the mayor of Barrow walking on water. Nothing unusual! One path of the story was Lowther testing Father Pennant to see if he was good enough to give him last rites when he dies. The other path was Elizabeth testing Robbie’s love for her. Did she know him better than Jane, sufficiently enough for her to overlook his affair with Jane and go forward with their marriage plans. (view spoiler)[I didn’t like the outcome of Lizzy’s decision to marry Robbie even though she knew she didn't love him. (hide spoiler)] Now that I have written my opinion of this book I’m changing my rating back to 2 stars. It doesn’t warrant 3 stars. I will finish Fifteen Dogs and write a review of it. Stay tuned.

  • Mauberley
    2019-02-23 12:17

    I so loved 'Fifteen Dogs' that I had to read more of Alexis' work. Unfortunately, I came to this book and was horribly disappointed. Was it the Rube Goldberg quality of the 'miracles'? Or was it the absurd love triangle? Was it the rather limp narrative of Barrow Day or was it the entirely colourless portrait of Father Pennant? So many disappointments in less than 170 pages. That said, I look forward to reading both 'Childhood' and the author's next novel which, I believe is scheduled for publication later this year (2016).

  • Neeuqdrazil
    2019-02-25 11:13

    This is very much what it says on the tin - a pastoral novel, in multiple senses of the word. It's structured based on Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. It's pastoral (having to do with the country) literature. And it's about a priest, and his pastoral (caring for his parish) duties. It was delightful, and difficult, and the characters were not really big full of life characters, but sketches, used to make points. And that's exactly what their purposes in the novel is.

  • John
    2019-03-08 13:05

    I loved reading this; I think the pacing and rhythm are about as fine as anything I've ever read. It's a lovely little story, but with plenty of depth and lots and lots of layer. Some of the characters are a little thin, but Alexis weaves them and their plotlines together so nicely one doesn't mind.

  • Kathleen Nightingale
    2019-03-23 08:02

    I enjoyed this book and wouldn't mind reading his other books. I laughed out loud when it was suggested that instead of doing something in a small town they should do it in Sarnia because no one would notice.

  • Kim
    2019-02-26 08:20

    If you have never read André Alexis, Pastoral is a great place to start. A truly one of a kind work. The writing here is so beautifully done. Even the smallest statements ring out as if sung by a choir. Southern Ontario is painted in such a lovely light, as if forever in the golden hour of beauty before evening fully arrives. My recommendation for listening is the Glenn Gould version of Beethoven's sixth Pastoral symphony. More subdued than most but I feel Christopher Pennant would have preferred it.

  • Katherine Pederson
    2019-02-27 10:03

    I found this book to be charming! I have since tried reading 3 of his other books and didn't finish them.

  • Ash
    2019-03-09 13:26

    I can't remember the last time I gave a book 5 whole, shiny stars. I'm stingy with them, a book has to blow me away for 5 stars. And Pastoral did. The book is beautifully, musically written. With characters who are deep, but also shallow reflections in one. It takes the genre of the Pastoral and challenges everything about it. [Warning: There are probably going to be spoilers incoming, just stop reading now, or keep reading - if you want to live dangerously.] Pastoral opens with a newly minted priest, Father Pennant, being assigned to and arriving at the small town of Barrow, that has reportedly not changed in its population of 1,100 in 50 years. Immediately he is struck by the beauty of the place - a perfect, idyllic hamlet stuck into a perfect countryside dotted with farms and filled with sheep. A place he thinks is so beautiful that one can't help but find, and come closer to God in it. Meeting Lowther Williams, and his inventor buddy Heath, at the rectory of Saint Mary's, his church, he does not realize he is meeting a man who will shake his religious foundations, and who himself is an enigma. Even more so when teamed with his best friend, Heath (resident town atheist), who he has known from childhood. Lowther is a man whose father, and father's father's father (ad infinitum) before him, all died at 63 years of age. On, or very close to, their birthdays, and he's convinced that he is the next in line at 62. He accepts this trend not as a strange coincidence, or even a curse, but as the very will and word of God. And he must ensure that Father Pennant will be a proper shepherd for his soul when his time comes, and to do this he "tests" the Father in ways he does not realize will deeply impact, and fundamentally change the man. Father Pennant, through out the book, is drawn closer to, and deeper within, nature at every turn. He's struck by the water of Barrow, noting there is something extraordinary about it. And shortly after arriving he meets his first test. Walking through a field he comes to a cloud of moths that, before his eyes, arrange themselves into shapes. He's struck by this - and reminded of the childhood event that set him on his religious path in life. He also is brought back to the troubling questions that event brought him as a young seminarian. We meet Elizabeth Denny, a gentle girl who loves her simple life in her adoptive hometown, and who is engaged to Robbie Myers. Robbie Myers is having an affair, which he is flagrant and open to Elizabeth about, with Jane Richardson - a native Barrowian who hates her life in the town of her birth. She longs for 'so much more than this simple life' and dreams of when she'll eventually make her way to a shining city, and hopes it will be New York. The two decide to test Robbie's devotion to either one of them based on a sort of dare concocted by Elizabeth. As time goes on we find Father Pennant being drawn into nature more and more, and rather than it bringing him closer to his God and beliefs, he finds it is pulling him away. He starts to question if nature is a work of God, or if God is, in fact, a work of nature. His faith shaken more by tests from Lowther, and a meeting with a talking sheep. Elizabeth "loses" her bet, if there can be a winner or loser in such a situation. But Jane is faced with the reality that she never wanted Robbie in the first place, he is too much a product of Barrow - too much of everything she wants to rid herself of. Eventually, after confronting her superstitions, and her beliefs that seem to say destiny is preordained and one cannot simply change their life without a sign, without a permission, she does leave Barrow... And Robbie returns to Elizabeth professing his love and his need for her, without once thinking of her feelings and her needs. Elizabeth is troubled by her feelings - is love real? if it is, then what is it, how can someone be certain of it? is it better to try and love a man who has shown you his worst pieces, irreparably damaged you with them, but yet you know has good pieces too? or should she venture to truly look for love and risk being hurt again? Lowther does not die on his 63rd birthday, and instead of enjoying what extra life he's being doled out, he falls into a deep depression and is consumed by a constant fear of not having immediate access to the father when his soon coming death will surely happen. Months pass. And then Lowther accepts his extra time, sitting with his feet in the river, thinking of the time he saw another aging Barrow resident with her feet in these waters and thought of the sympathy he had for her age, and having to live in Death's shadow without ever knowing when it would strike. He resolves to continue doing good, atoning for a past he bears much shame about, and be thankful. Pastoral challenges us all, with its Wordsworthian world and references, to think. Is marriage doable without love? Is priesthood convincing without God? How can we accept our deaths, and the deaths of those we love? What is real in the world, and in ourselves, and what is illusion?

  • Patti
    2019-03-20 12:58

    Promising build, but stalled for me half way through and then just felt unfinished.

  • kp
    2019-03-04 13:14

    A contemplative piece that might seem dull to some, but I liked its delicacy and humanity.

  • In
    2019-02-26 09:06

    Mystical. Beautifully written. Fun.

  • Steven Langdon
    2019-03-20 15:15

    This book became a "must read" when I finished "Fifteen Dogs," the delightfully imaginative and creative novel about thinking-talking dogs in downtown Toronto that won the 2015 Giller Prize for Canadian English literature (as well as the Roger's Writers Award.) "Dogs" was described as the second of a series by Alexis, and "Pastoral" was volume one in that series.And so I found myself in Barrow, a small town near Sarnia, Ontario, surrounded by flocks of sheep, with a new priest (Father Christopher Pennant) getting to know his diverse Catholic flock, while several young women (Liz Denny and Jane Richardson) are carrying on a torrid set of romances with a stolid young farmer named Robbie Myers over whom they are seemingly in competition. It's a very different milieu than downtown Toronto, but Alexis writes about it with equal facility, with a humorous and engaging touch, and with a deep appreciation for the challenges of mortality and the complexities of emotional connection.Not much happens in terms of plot, but each of the main characters develops beautifully over time, helped along by their interactions with each other (and with the sheep.) Father Christopher comes to observe his community in all its complexity, he builds a love affair with nature (what makes this book a "Pastoral" in traditional literary terms,) and his faith changes from a serious Christianity to a broader spiritual tie with the changing world. Liz marries her Robbie but only after discovering she doesn't really love him that much -- and the marriage may not last. Meanwhile Barrow carries on, celebrating Barrow Day with amusement and pageantry. Jane escapes to the big city; Father Christopher thinks he may leave too; but the sheep keep their flock together with a little Godly intervention.All in all, a fine book. Not as creatively imaginative as "Fifteen Dogs" but very satisfying on many levels.

  • Emmett
    2019-03-11 13:14

    *I received an advanced reading copy of this novel as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.* André Alexis's Pastoral was a quick read, but managed to leave a lasting impression. The story itself is simple in that nothing fantastical or overly dramatic occurs, but that is exactly what makes the novel stand out. Everything occurs in the small town of Barrow over the course of just a few months between a relatively small cast of characters, but the thoughts of the characters and the trials they face are all very engrossing. Anyone who has lived anywhere even remotely rural or with a small-town vibe can easily connect with the story. Each one of the characters is just striving to live their own life and any drama is usually the kind that fuels light gossip between people living in close proximity, without much to fill their days other than work and socializing with the other denizens of the town.Despite the novel's short length, I still managed to become very invested in the lives of the individual characters and I found myself anxious to discover where each of their paths would lead them by the conclusion of the novel. It's easy to imagine having met any one of these townspeople with their own complex thoughts, desires, and emotions. The pacing is excellent and Alexis's writing is also deserving of praise. His style of writing comes off as both humorous and deliberate, irreverent and matter-of-fact. After reading, one is left with a distinct feeling that is difficult to express clearly, but is nonetheless both light-hearted and affecting at the same time. I could easily recommend this novel to anyone (and do!).

  • Yvette
    2019-03-24 11:07

    Pastoral is a short novel about how beliefs and faith can be tested and how that testing changes individuals. It is about the insular and sometimes peculiar behavior of small, rural towns. It is the story of a priest taking up his first parish in the country town of Barrow and how reconnects with nature as his faith is tested in that small town, and his reactions to the somewhat pagan traditions and behaviors of Barrow Day. It is about how tragedy can shape a person such as Lowther, who is preoccupied with the seeming inevitability of his early death. And it is about Elizabeth, who is unwillingly involved in a love triangle and the choices she makes.At times lovely, amusing, almost profound, this is a novel that involves the reader in contemplation of God, nature and their interweaving in our lives. An overarching and recurring question that seems to be posed to the novel’s characters is “What will you choose to believe and accept?” And we as readers are left to decide whether their choices are based on faith or rationalization.My copy was won through the GoodReads First Reads program, courtesy of Coach House Books. Is it odd that it gave me a little extra thrill to see the Canadian postage?

  • Marcia
    2019-03-25 11:59

    I received this book free through the Goodreads First Reads. Andre Alexis does a beautiful job of describing the Canadian countryside. I had no trouble visualizing the community he was describing. This book can be compared to Jan Karon's Mitford series, but it isn't the same. The Mitford books are also pastoral in nature, but the story line is lighter. I found this book a bit on the dark side. I don't mean that as a criticism--it may be what the author intended. There is a great deal of focus on the characters' introspection (and in some cases, their lack thereof). I particularly enjoyed Father Pennant's exploration of his faith. I only gave this book three stars because while I found that I enjoyed the book, it didn't grab me and pull me in the way some books do, making me wish the book didn't end.

  • K.
    2019-03-11 06:58

    ((SPOILERS)) It is well written, although I'm unclear as to the choice to forego quotes in the dialogue...a style choice that just repeatedly made me wonder to what purpose? And the only answer that made much sense was: to be pretentious. The story was uneventful. It contradicted itself (as characters were described atheist and then shown searching prayer books for help, which is so untrue and insulting). The weird sheep...I just really don't know what to say about this book. I scoff at 160 pages being called a novel. I scoff at the foggy boring narrative. I wanted to scream at Liz for putting up with and then settling for Robbie, making for yet another wishy-washy woman who only focuses on getting her ring. So much better could have been done here. But it's just another pastiche dried in the path of tread too often.

  • Lis
    2019-03-24 13:00

    Quite lovely writing. The story itself reminded me of stories of English country village life -- under the spreading chestnut tree etc. A bit surprising to encounter it in an Ontario small town setting, but well done."Pastoral" as a genre is, according to Wikipedia "A pastoral lifestyle (see pastoralism) is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasture. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art and music that depicts such life in an idealized manner, typically for urban audiences." That fairly describes this book.The characters have much discussion of love, god, and nature. I found these passages did not engage me, however.

  • Mary Alice
    2019-03-11 12:24

    I've just started reading this wonderful novel, which is close on novella in length. There is a great charm and langour to the first few pages and I can feel myself savouring the words as I read through. Can't wait to see what happens as Father Christopher Pennant becomes more and more a part of Barrow.

  • Tammy Force Winder
    2019-03-04 13:17

    This book was a good quick read. It kept you interested and intrigued with the happenings in the story not only with the characters but with the events that occured. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others as a well written, nicely told story about a newly ordained priest and his experience in a small town with some interesting rituals.

  • Ian
    2019-03-14 09:20

    While this novel was not quite as good as Fifteen Dogs, I still really enjoyed it. The storyline itself was simple, but that allowed Alexis to explore very complex concepts without losing the reader's attention. I fell in love with the characters of this novel, and felt their emotions. The ending resolved the issue quite nicely, but it was bittersweet for the characters.

  • Christine Beevis Trickett
    2019-03-04 15:19

    I loved child/hood, so o expected to enjoy this book. While it was a lovely and enjoyable read, felt I was really only skimming along its surface - perhaps because it's a book that lends itself more readily to literary close reading than a casual read. I did enjoy its moments of whimsy and humour and the new take on the pastoral, so I'm giving it 3.5/5, rounding up to 4.

  • Anna Noga
    2019-03-14 15:00

    There were some lovely aspects to this book. However, I found the character Lowther to be too bizarre to be believable--and he's one of the main characters. Also, this book really consists almost of 2 different stories and finding the connections between the 2 was not easy. Otherwise, the descriptions of the scenery and the slower pace of rural life was refreshing.

  • Magdelanye
    2019-03-09 14:25

    Loosely structured after Beethovens 6th symphony, la pastoral, this a charming tale that I enjoyed quite a bit more than the celebrated 15 little of what anything means comes through words. p 126Once God speaks to you, you're pretty much ruined. p 145

  • Leanne Fournier
    2019-03-04 15:15

    This was a delightful, brilliantly written story. I love the engaging exploration the author takes around christianity, where it has a place and where it doesn't, how it can guide us and how, in a two very poignant examples, it can fail us.

  • Ruthie
    2019-03-16 11:23

    This is a very quiet book that is almost totally character driven. I liked the writing and there were many passages that were thought provoking, but I never really felt engaged with either the characters or their stories. I loved the descriptions of the scenery, but it was rather flat for my taste.

  • Rick
    2019-03-14 13:07

    A very poetic and beautifully descriptive novel. However, I found this story was quite dark. At the same time, the storyline itself was quite simple. So much so that it was difficult for me to get into the book and it didn't capture me.

  • Benjamin Kahn
    2019-03-02 09:06

    In many ways, it was a perfect book. Simple and straightforward, with interesting ideas and characters. It was a quick and compelling read, that touched on themes of spirituality without being overbearing. I quite enjoyed it.