Robin Robertson’s wonderful new book is hard to classify. It would be possible to review The Long Take as if it were a novel, even a thriller of sorts. It has a compelling narrative and a central character, known only as Walker, whose efforts to make sense of his life eventually merit the description ‘heroic’. It is written, for the most part, in exceptionally supple verse, though Walker’s memories of his childhood in Nova Scotia and his nightmarish experiences as a soldier in the last months of the Second World War are set down in prose. The overall effect, after two readings, is of a great poem, which begins in a time of turmoil and confusion and ends with the attainment of a curious and unexpected state of grace.
The Long Take covers the years 1946 to, roughly, 1955. We meet the newly demobbed Walker on an autumn morning as he arrives in New York. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but is still strangely confident about his immediate future. He fears returning to Canada and to the