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Lust. Infidelity. Betrayal. Murder.

On a summer evening in Stratford, Ontario, the errant thrust of agardener’s spade slices a telephone cable into instant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach a house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. And when a Bell Canada repairman arrives to mend the broken line, his...

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Lust. Infidelity. Betrayal. Murder.

On a summer evening in Stratford, Ontario, the errant thrust of agardener’s spade slices a telephone cable into instant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach a house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. And when a Bell Canada repairman arrives to mend the broken line, his innocent yet irresistible male beauty has explosive consequences.

In Spadework, Timothy Findley, master storyteller and playwright, has created an electric wordplay of infidelity and morality set on the stage of Canada’s preeminent theater town. In this fictional portrait, intrigue, passion, and ambition are always waiting in the wings. Findley peoples the town with theater folk, artists, writers, and visitors (both welcome and unwelcome), and with lives that are immediately recognizable as "Findley-esque" — the lonely, the dispossessed, and the sexually troubled.

A story that ripples with ever-widening repercussions, a sensual, witty, and completely absorbing novel, Spadework is another Timothy Findley winner.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bestselling Canadian writer Findley, whose stylish and complexly plotted novels have acquired an appreciative audience, here departs from his usual dark scenarios to produce an erotically powered narrative in which all's well that ends well. The setting is the town of Stratford, Ontario, home of the Shakespeare Festival. Findley (Pilgrim) knows this world well, and he conveys it with atmospheric detail. The inadequacy of mere ambition, even when one has talent, is the lesson learned by rising actor Griffin Kincaid, when he realizes that luck and fate can also play havoc with dreams of theatrical stardom. After Kincaid refuses a sexual proposition by his manipulative homosexual director, Jonathan Crawford, he is denied the roles he'd been promised. Griffin's wife, Jane, a Louisiana set designer for the theater, is bitter because Griffin refuses to let her use her substantial inherited income to buy a home in which to raise their seven-year-old son. When, by chance, her gardener cuts a buried phone line, dramatic events ensue. The telephone repairman is a young Polish immigrant, inarticulate but strangely beautiful, and Jane is aroused. Attracted to the repairman yet worried by Griffin's inattention, Jane suspects that her husband is having an affair with an actress. Then she realizes he has capitulated to Jonathan's demands. Despite being a sexual bully, Jonathan is acutely sensitive to Shakespeare, and his insights are enlightening. A hopeful ending provides uplift, but does not, unfortunately, compensate for shopworn characterization and the overdone Tennessee Williams atmosphere. For Findley, this is a curiously slapdash performance. (Jan. 11) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this tenth novel, best-selling Canadian author Findley (Pilgrim) depicts the disintegration of a family against the backdrop of the Stratford, Ontario, Shakespeare Festival. Griffin and Jane Kincaid live with their son, Will, in idyllic Stratford. Griffin, a repertory theater actor, discovers that his future success may depend on his response to homosexual overtures by the theater's director. Griffin is ambitious, but the security afforded by his wife's large inheritance suggests that something other than professional hunger motivates his fall onto the casting couch. Jane's simultaneous infatuation with Milos, the handsome Canada Bell repairman who arrives to mend a broken phone line, comes when she is most vulnerable. Yet this response rings false from a woman supposedly struggling to keep her marriage intact. Subtle character connections are interesting, but while diverting, subplots concerning the serial murders of women in neighboring towns and the domestic strife rampant in the family life of minor characters ultimately seem extraneous. For larger collections. Margee Smith, Grace A. Dow Memorial Lib., Midland, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gardener slices through a backyard phone line in Stratford, Ontario, and a couple of theater people find their marriage disastrously unraveling-in this loose-limbed and hardly convincing latest by loquacious Canadian Findley (Pilgrim, 2000, etc.).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060932626
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/5/2002
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Findley's recent titles include Pilgrim, which was a finalist for the Giller Prize and his first published in the United States; You Went Away; Dust to Dust; and The Piano Man's Daughter. He was also the author of the acclaimed Headhunter, Not Wanted on the Voyage, Famous Last Words, and The Wars. His most recent play, Elizabeth Rex, won the Governor General's Award for Drama. His work has won innumerable honors, including the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Edgar Award. He was the only three-time recipient of the Canadian Authors Association Award, bestowed for fiction, nonfiction, and drama. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in France, Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He split his time between homes in Stratford, Ontario and the south of France. He died in France in June 2002 at the age of 71.

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Read an Excerpt


Stratford, Ontario, Thursday, June 25, 1998 Swirling people. Lights. Music. Enough to make a person dizzy. This was only the beginning. Then you had to get through the doors, hand over your tickets to someone you could barely see in the crush and, after that, find your seat.

Opening night -- and nothing in the world to equal it. The audience radiant with expectation-the actors sick with apprehension.

Everyone -- as the saying goes -- was there -- all the stars, all the rich, all the Festival Board and staff -- the artistic directorhis assistant -- the designer, the composer, the lighting and costume designers, the mass of visiting actors, writers, directors . . . And the critics, all of whom were attempting -- as always, without success -- to maintain anonymity. Who -me?

They were somewhat overshadowed by the simultaneous presence of the Governor General and the multiple rumors of visiting actors Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson and Jude Law. (These rumors seldom proved to be correct, but on occasion, some were true.) Nonetheless, the critics meticulously found their way to their aisle seats and stood waiting one by one, still feigning absence, until the rest of their rows had filled.

As always at Stratford's Festival Theatre, the evening began with fanfares -- trumpets, applause and the raising of flags. Because of the Governor General's presence, the national anthem would be played. People would stand -- most of them would sing and there would be extensive applause, since the Governor General was an extremely popular figure.

In the midst of all this, Jane Kincaid and her seven-year-old son, Will, made their way to their privileged seats in the orchestra, five rows from the stage, two seats from the aisle. They sat down -- stood up -- sat down -- stood up and sat down again as other members of the audience filed past them, laughing, smiling, excited, lost, apologetic, clumsy, graceful and awkward by turns. Sitting on Jane's other side was the play's director, Jonathan Crawford.

They barely spoke beyond the necessary acknowledgment that they were aware of each other's presence. After the national anthem Jane could see that Jonathan, as was natural, was almost catatonic with nerves, while his masklike expression said: nothing can possibly faze me -- I've done my job -- it's over and the rest will be theatre history ...

Jane Kincaid knew better, but said nothing. She was almost in the same state. Her husband and Will's father, Griffin, would be appearing that night as Claudio in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing -- and by all accounts, he was sensational and well on his way to stardom. Jane had deliberately stayed away from the dress rehearsal and the previews-wanting to savor the moment with Will.

Like all roads leading to the limelight, Griffin's had been long and arduous. He had begun his acting career at the University of Toronto -- on a dare, playing Brick in Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He had broken his leg in a hockey accident and was bored. Since Brick wears a cast on his leg all through the play, Griffin's girlfriend of the moment, who was playing Maggie, the "cat" of the title, had said to him: why don't you give it a whirl? After all -- a person never knows. What followed was the proverbial story of a duck taking to water. Griffin was stricken as by contagion and almost at once had given up the study of law.

He had gone on to play Brick on two other occasions -- in Vancouver and in Winnipeg, which is where he met and fell in love with Jane Terry. They married just before moving to Stratford.

Jane had come to Canada from Plantation, Louisiana, in :1987, seeking work in the theatre as an artist. To her great satisfaction, she had been engaged as a property maker and designer in various theatres and had designed the props for the production of Cat at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. Less than a year later she and Griffin were married, and seven months after that, Will was born.

Now, here they sat -- mother and son, their stomachs in knots -- waiting for Griffin to make his first entrance. Luckily he was on within the first seven minutes. (Will timed it.)

Jane almost wept. Griffin was surely the best-looking man on the stage -- on any stage -- and since the play was set in the eighteenth century, his trousers clung to his legs like a second skin and his tunic like a third.

The role of Claudio is difficult, because he must be played as both a charmer and a bastard -- a daring soldier and a cowardly lover who denounces his beloved Hero on their wedding day, naively believing she has been unfaithful to him.

One minute you'll adore him, the next minute you'll bate him, Jane had warned Will. Not to worry, hon. It's only a play and Daddy's pretending to be someone else-as be always does at work.

Sometimes be even looks ugly, Will had said, remembering his father the year before as one of the murderers in Macbeth.

Yes, Jane had said with a smile, but it was awfully hard to believe it was really him.

Spadework. Copyright © by Timothy Findley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    App Den


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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2013

    Leaders den

    Of spadeclan

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    False advertising

    The jacket of this book implies that it is a murder mystery, a murder that happens after a phone line was accidentally cut. Instead, it is a depraved story about a bunch of cheating actors in a shakespearen town in Canada. Centered around Griff, an upcoming actor who decided to turn homosexual with the director to get better parts, and his wife Jane who turns to the bottle and both who ignore their 7 year old son Will. This book has this running reference to Monica Lewinsky's blue dress and the ensuing trial of Linda Tripp, so I'm sure the book was trying to make a point but I have no idea what.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2002

    Timothy, how could you do it?

    I am a huge fan of Findley and have read all of his novels and stories. How he managed to pump out this piece of one dimensional fluff is beyond me. The book is banal and full of cliches. Most of his other works can be considered Literature with a capital 'L'. Spadework can only be called a poor excuse for killing a tree.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2001

    'Spadework' Digs up Desire

    With his new hometown of Stratford, ON providing the location, Timothy Findley's 'Spadework' delicately draws us into an exploration of humanity's struggles with individualism and personal knowledge. Set amidst the egos and personalities of those who perform Shakespeare at the Festival Theatre in Stratford as well as some colourful, small town characters, 'Spadework' begins slowly. But there is no putting this story away ¿ before long, the reader is inexorably part of the people Findley lives among and fully comprehends. Despite several rather comical and somewhat contrived circumstances, 'Spadework' accomplishes something rare in modern novels ¿ it draws a clear and straight line to where human desire dwells in all of us.

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