The Invention of the World by Jack Hodgins -Review

Jack Hodgins’ literary piece The Invention of the World, is an ambitious attempt at a first novel. Inspired by the magic realism effortlessly achieved by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Invention of the World provides historical and personal insights that keep the reader intrigued. 

Hodgins’ novel welcomes you to the Revelations Colony of Truth, a utopian Christian community found in the depths of Vancouver Island.  At the turn of the century, Donal Brendan Keneally, the legendary half-human, half-bull Irish evangelist brings an entire village to Canada to start their Edenic community, a tall ambition that seems to fail. Fast-forward to the present, the indestructible Maggie Kyle wanting to reinvent herself, buys the old Keneally compound and turns it into the Revelations Trailer Park. The former colony is now home to Maggie’s offbeat boarders – American tourists and fishermen as well as local oddities such as old Becker who starts to research and piece together a story about the Revelations Colony of Truth and its fabled leader.

The novel swings back and forth from the present to the past, recounting stories of the residents of the fictional Vancouver Island property. It jumps from Maggie running the boarding house and renting out cottages, to Irish settlers building the cottages on Keneally’s command.

Most of the novel focuses on Keneally and his colony in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s including the many scandals and obscurities the messianic leader was involved in. There is a separate but connected plotline in the novel’s present time when Becker is researching the Colony’s history.

Hodgins has definitely put Vancouver Island on the map with this novel. Painting a great backdrop for his story, Hodgins brings to life the gorgeous landscape of British Columbia and the simple life of the rural West Coast inhabitants. The characters in the novel are so colourful that you find yourself wanting to get to know them more. Maggie Kyle and her posse of eccentric characters will motivate you to finish the book even if it continues to drag. Some parts of the novel slow to a crawl especially when the storyline seems to go everywhere. Moving back and forth in time was not so well executed in the story that might get some readers confused.

As a veteran writer, Hodgins garnered various awards for literary excellence making British Columbia and the rest of Canada proud.  His first novel was credited with being the first work of Canadian magic realism. Hodgins’ skill in creating a story and artful prose is evident in his writing. When the book slows to a crawl, the admiration for the creator of this world and his animated characters will not lose its lustre. Hodgins started big with this novel and though there are some flaws with his storytelling, his voice and his vivid imagery will stick with you making this book deserving of the awards it has acquired.

The Invention of the World is original and creative and it is filled with tall-tales, humour, myth, irony and even love. The Invention of the World is an entertaining read and will make you fall in love with British Columbia all over again.

Gian Karla Limcangco

Gian Karla Limcangco