Book Review – Visiting Fellow – Dave Williamson
- Book: Visiting Fellow
- Author: Dave Williamson
- Genre: Fiction
- Year of Release: 2016
- Read 357-page paperback edition in April 2016.
In the mid 1990s in Winnipeg, university professor Wally Baxter has a comfortable life from his career goals perspective. He has even secured a sabbatical appointment in Tasmania, Australia, to serve as a visiting fellow at a university in a more exotic location from his home in Canada. However, on the home front, he is struggling with an unpredictable ex wife who remains in his circle due to their 16 year old son, who is going through the usual pangs of adolescence. Further, his attempts at dating have proven unsuccessful, until he meets the mysterious Carolyn, a kind but complicated widow. How will his trip to Australia will play out, and who is he going to bring with him?
In this sixth novel from Winnipeg author Dave Williamson, one of the first things a reader can take note of is that the author does a wonderful job when it comes to the description of the setting around his characters. The first half of the novel takes place in Winnipeg, and the latter half takes place in Tasmania. Being a Winnipeg resident myself, I can attest that all of the author’s descriptions, from broad to minute detail, are bang-on, and it creates enjoyment to know that the author has taken care to give us accurate details, which increases the authenticity of the novel.
Furthermore, the author has done a nice job of building a lot of comedy into the book. There are a few sections that are truly laugh out loud, seeing what the main character is put through, particularly the early stages of the novel on dating.
The plot of the novel is interesting and well paced, as we learn about all aspects of Wally Baxter’s life and thinking patterns. The author also allows us to see into Carolyn’s thoughts as well, through the use of journal entries, a useful and effective approach so we can see two sides and two perspectives to an event. This allows us to see the unfolding of Carolyn and Wally’s relationship, which is one of the key elements of the story.
One slight detraction in the story is that, at times, it feels that Carolyn is inconsistent as a character, to a slightly unbelievable point. Although it is normal that anyone has happy and sad points in the course of the weeks and months, Carolyn’s inconsistency on these pages often comes without explanation, such as when she is happy with the prospects of a relationship with Wally, and then the next page unhappy, for no apparent reason. These flip flops happen several times, and become confusing when they come over and over without clear explanation.
That is a slight issue though. Overall, this is a fun, engaging novel, and the author has a strong voice that comes through the words. It is definitely a novel recommended for those wanting a light and enjoyable read, with some thoughtful commentary on dating and travel.
Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars