The Canal House

The Canal House

5.0 1
by Mark Lee

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Photojournalist Nicky Bettencourt thinks he's seen everything until he teams up with the legendary war correspondent Daniel McFarland. To Daniel, the story is everything; people come later. But after a plane crash nearly takes his life, Daniel begins to see the world in a different way. He falls in love with Julia Cadell, an idealistic British doctor, and together


Photojournalist Nicky Bettencourt thinks he's seen everything until he teams up with the legendary war correspondent Daniel McFarland. To Daniel, the story is everything; people come later. But after a plane crash nearly takes his life, Daniel begins to see the world in a different way. He falls in love with Julia Cadell, an idealistic British doctor, and together they find refuge at an old canal house in the center of London. Soon after, Nicky, Daniel, and Julia are called to East Timor, where the government has fled and the entire country is a war zone, and Daniel must decide whether to get the story of a lifetime or to see beyond the headlines to the people whose lives are in the balance.

Fast-paced and gorgeously written, The Canal House is a gripping novel of love, faith, and friendship set in the dangerous world of international wartime journalism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A story presented in prose so fine it nearly sings, peopled by characters who burn themselves into your mind and heart.”
“This touching, elegantly written tale aptly describes love and friendship amid the terror of contemporary war.”
The Dallas Morning News

"This touching, elegantly written tale aptly describes love and friendship amid the terror of contemporary war."
The Denver Post

"A story presented in prose so fine it nearly sings ... Characters who burn themselves into your mind and heart."
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"With its tragic love triangle, subtle suspense and cool prose, 'The Canal House' is an absolute must read."
Publishers Weekly
Lee is an experienced foreign correspondent (who is currently also a vice-president at PEN Center USA), and his knowledge of the perils and challenges of that life comes across most powerfully in this somber and elegiac debut novel. It is the story of the life and death of war correspondent Daniel McFarland, who after a brush with death in Uganda develops a new sense of mission and responsibility toward those whose wracked lives he is covering. He is drawn into an affair with Julia Cadell, an English doctor who idealistically ministers to the suffering in war zones, and the book's title refers to a brief idyll they share in London before setting out again on dangerous missions. Their new one is in East Timor, where the Indonesian government is crushing an independence movement, while British and Australian troops, sent in by the UN, try to act as intermediaries without actually joining the fighting. The scenes on that idyllic island smashed by war are the best in the book-they have the breathless immediacy of battlefront reporting-and if Daniel's final decision is a bit melodramatic, a sad resolution is the only possible one for Lee's tale. A subplot about a wealthy British magnate in pursuit of Julia never quite convinces, and the narrator, a photographer who follows Daniel around, is a bit shadowy. But there's no denying the eloquence and terror of Lee's vistas of contemporary war in the world's more obscure corners. (May 9) FYI: The current publicity around the movie version of Greene's The Quiet American could help refocus readers' attention on the role of the war correspondent, though the book's title and cover don't begin to convey its subject and quality. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lee's day job is working as a foreign correspondent for major news organizations in the United States and abroad, and his second novel (after The Lost Tribe) exhibits what might be expected from someone with his background: colorful settings convincingly detailed and a good grasp of world affairs, politics, and intrigue. However, this story of a globe-hopping journalist's transformation from opportunist to humanitarian never once brings the characters to life, while the narrative itself determinedly sticks to a tried-and-true, no-surprises formula. Is Daniel McFarland really as aloof and uncaring as he presents himself? How will a near-death experience on assignment in Uganda change him? Will he find love with the only major female character (a relief worker) in the book? And, ultimately, is Daniel too good to live? Readers who instinctively know the answers to these questions can pass on this novel. The climax plays out during an uprising in East Timor, and many good people accompany Daniel's new love and his photographer friend Nicky in assisting refugees to safety. In addition to his news reporting, the author acts as vice president of membership for the PEN Center USA (an organization protecting writers' rights worldwide). Clearly, he is doing good work elsewhere, but his experiences haven't translated into good fiction this time around.-Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Lee (The Lost Tribe, 1998) spans three continents, mixing high-stakes suspense with erotic intrigue. American news photographer and narrator Nicky Bettencourt is losing his edge, so his London boss at Newsweek hooks him up with the formidable US journalist Daniel McFarland. Daniel is about to leave his farmhouse outside Rome for Uganda, in hopes of tracking down the Reverend Okello, a self-styled prophet who has kidnapped tourists from a game park (yes, that really happened). The apprehensive photographer soon bonds with the fearless journalist, and they fly to a Ugandan refugee camp run by the British doctor Julia Cadell and financed by her lover, the billionaire banker Richard Seaton. Outraging Julia, Daniel bribes a child, a traumatized victim of Okello's, to guide them to the prophet-anything for the story. But despite the dangers, he gets his interview, miraculously survives the crash of his Cessna, and loses his hard professional shell while recovering at an AIDS mission. All this is fine: a gripping storyline, rich with detail, shaped by a traveler who has talked the talk and walked the walk. Then the action shifts to Seaton's English castle, where Daniel persuades the no longer outraged Julia to bolt (Nicky is the faithful witness). At the narrative's still center, the new lovers shut out the world and enjoy a long idyll in their London hideaway-passages that call for a lyric intensity Lee can't manage, and the story sags. It picks up again in the final section, where Lee re-creates another headline-grabber: the carnage attending East Timor's independence. Julia has improbably agreed to run another of Seaton's refugee camps there, and he and Daniel are both onhand, but the untangling of this three-way lovers' knot is overshadowed by the real-world agony of the Timorese. Journalist Lee (Atlantic Monthly, Los Angeles Times, etc.) uses his foreign correspondent experience impressively. Once he matches that with well-developed characters, we'll be looking at a major talent. Agent, film rights: Matt Snyder/CAA

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Harvest Book Ser.
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.83(d)

Meet the Author

MARK LEE has worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters and the London Telegraph. A vice president of PEN Center USA, Lee is a foreign correspondent for various publications, including the Atlantic Monthly and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Southern California.

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Canal House 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book took my breath away more than once. The feelings of love and selflessness vibrate from the pages of this book. It brought out emotions of angry during some parts and in others left me in awe of its characters. This book will remain one of my favorites for years to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mark Lee has written an exceptionally involving novel that manages to be both fast-paced and accessible while telling subtle, multilayered, interlinked stories of developing friendship, love, tragedy and the reawakening of human commitment. Confided to us in alternating sections by a male American war photographer and by a female English doctor who both have a fatal attraction for working in the World¿s war zones, the novel vividly involves us in the lives of bush pilots, peace-keeping troops, American hostages, charity workers, fund-raiser party-planners, news magazine editors, child soldiers, the super-rich, and the wounded, starving poor, and more, while traveling through the Italian and British haunts of war correspondents, the refugee camps and combat zones of East Africa and Indonesia, and the offices and hunting grounds of the wealthy who patronize refugee charities. Both in his simple but evocative language and in his rare ability to convincingly set a story of love and loss against the keenly observed ironies, horrors, fascinations, and tragedies of war, Lee reminds me of Hemingway at his best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a rare book. It's beautifully written and compelling reading. I couldn't put it down and I learned what war correspondents really do and how they live. Do yourself a favor, buy this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while there is a book that I want to put in everyone's hand. In the bookstore I want to point it out to the browsers. In the library I want to put it on the shelf named 'Good Books You Might Have Missed'. The Canal House is just such a book. It has adventure. It has love. It has friendship. It has betrayal. It has compassion. And it is beautifully written. So well written that there are times I found myself falling into the pages. And if you think this one is a good read, you should also check out Mr. Lee's first story, The Lost Tribes.