Friday, June 2, 2017

10th Canadian Challenge - 31th Review - The Many Colored Coat

Morley Callaghan's The Many Colored Coat is one of those novels that does not go down smoothly.  It portrays a situation where pretty much everyone gets their feathers ruffled and takes everything the wrong way.  Pretty much everyone ends up at odds with one another in the aftermath of an oil company's shares losing almost all of their value, ultimately leading to financial ruin and worse.  I can understand what Callaghan is up to, but it still feels very claustrophobic reading it, particularly when two men -- Harry Lane (a PR man) and Mike Kon (a boxer turned tailor) -- butt heads, both feeling that they are in the right.  While Lane is basically the wronged party from an "objective" standpoint, he just has too much pride (even a priest warns him not to care too much about what the public thinks of him!) and keeps escalating the situation.

Before too long, the tension between the two men (both feeling that they have been wronged) causes them problems at work and with their closest companions.  I can understand misplaced pride (many years ago I resigned as editor from a literary magazine when my honor was impugned), but these two take it to extremes, and it seems to affect almost everyone in the English enclave in Montreal, where the novel is set.  While I have some doubts about the likelihood of the denouement unfolding that way, it is fairly clever.  I can't really say more than that without spoiling the book, so this will be one of my shorter reviews.  It is a thought-provoking book, that makes one think seriously about one's public face and how guilt and innocence may not in fact be absolutes but relative to one's position (after all, very few people willingly tell themselves that they were acting badly).  This seems to me to be a novel that I would return to after more water passes under the bridge.  


  1. Interesting take on this one. I haven't read much Morley Callaghan after one disastrous attempt in high school -- I think he's better suited to adult readers so I should try again now!

  2. I'd say my favourite Callaghan is A Fine and Private Place, set in Toronto incidentally.