Bear by Marian Engel - review by Melissa J Gismondi

Melissa J Gismondi

A Grizzly Tale



Daunt Books 176pp £8.99

Bear is the story of a summer love affair between Lou, an archivist tasked with cataloguing the library of a 19th-century Ontario manor, and a bear affiliated with the isolated house. The bear, we are told, is ‘indubitably male’ and smells of ‘shit and musk’. One of Lou’s first interactions with Bear, as he’s known, occurs outside, at his shed. After watching him drink a pail of water, Lou whispers to Bear, ‘Who and what are you?’

We might also ask that question of this strange yet brilliant novel, first published in 1976 and now reissued by Daunt Books. In under two hundred pages, it flirts with a range of issues, including colonialism, women’s sexual liberation, the tension between intellect and instinct, and modern society’s alienation from

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend