Alexander MacDonald guides us through his family’s mythic past as he recollects the heroic stories of his people: loggers, miners, drinkers, adventurers; men forever in exile, forever linked to their clan. There is the legendary patriarch who left the Scottish Highlands in 1779 and resettled in “the land of trees,” where his descendents became a separate Nova Scotia clan. There is the team of brothers and cousins, expert miners in demand around the world for their dangerous skills. And there is Alexander and his twin sister, who have left Cape Breton and prospered, yet are haunted by the past. Elegiac, hypnotic, by turns joyful and sad, No Great Mischief is a spellbinding story of family, loyalty, exile, and of the blood ties that bind us, generations later, to the land from which our ancestors came.
Alistair MacLeod was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1936 and raised among an extended family in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He still spends his summers in Inverness County, writing in a clifftop cabin looking west towards Prince Edward Island. In his early years, to finance his education he worked as a logger, a miner, and a fisherman, and writes vividly and sympathetically about such work.
His early studies were at the Nova Scotia Teachers College, St. Francis Xavier, the University of New Brunswick and Notre Dame, where he took his Ph.D. He has also taught creative writing at the University of Indiana. Working alongside W.O. Mitchell, he was an inspiring teacher to generations of writers at the Banff Centre. In the spring of 2000, MacLeod retired from the University of Windsor, Ontario, where he was a professor of English.
He has published two internationally acclaimed collections of short stories: The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (1976) and As Birds Bring Forth the Sun (1986). In 2000, these two books, accompanied by two new stories, were published in a single-volume edition entitled Island: The Collected Stories of Alistair MacLeod. In 1999, MacLeod’s first novel, No Great Mischief, was published to great critical acclaim, and was on national bestseller lists for more than a year. The novel won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction, the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, The Trillium Award for Fiction, the CAA-MOSAID Technologies Inc. Award for Fiction, and at the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Awards, MacLeod won for Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year. No Great Mischief was also a finalist for the Pearson Canada Reader’s Choice Award at The Word on the Street.
Alistair MacLeod and his wife, Anita, have six children. They live in Windsor.
“MacLeod is MacLeod, the greatest living Canadian writer and one of the most distinguished writers in the world. No Great Mischief is the book of the year – and of this decade. It is a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.”
–Globe and Mail
“No Great Mischief is one of the best Canadian novels I’ve read in years. It’s a tale of truth about people who care for one another and for the living world around them. A lament and a celebration, it will endure.”
“This is a simply great novel. The simplicity lies in the device of the plot. The greatness lies in its scope, imagination, and execution.…His message beguiles, his prose captivates, and his narrative never loosens a deceptively gentle grip.”
“You will find scenes from this majestic novel burned into your mind forever.”
“A triumph of fiction.…[MacLeod’s] storytelling is taut and lucid. His characters possess strength and depth. They linger in your mind.”
–The Economist (U.K.)
“[A] mesmerizing, evocative story, infused with grace and wisdom.”
–Jury Citation, Trillium Award
“A powerful, intricate work.…”
“MacLeod’s world of Cape Breton…has become a permanent part of my own inner library.”
–New York Times Book Review
“No Great Mischief feels like a book that’s gone deep and means to stay.”
–Quill & Quire (starred review)
“A masterpiece of storytelling.”
–Time Out (London)
“This book is a jewel.…Destined to become one of the most memorable Canadian novels of the decade.…”
“A haunting and beautiful book.…MacLeod’s descriptions are remarkable.”
“No Great Mischief is a lesson in the art of storytelling.”
–Times Literary Supplement
“The work speaks of great loves…and tragic losses that will move readers in every corner of the world.”
“A robust novel, celebrating all of the joys and tragedies life has to offer.”
“MacLeod’s world, hard and real, has also the feel of resonant myth about it, enduring truths couched in pellucid prose.”
“A great, hauntingly beautiful and enduring book.”
“Few readers will fail to be moved by No Great Mischief.”
“[MacLeod’s] writing is of a quality that most writers can only dream of achieving.”
“The book is pervaded by humour and colour, intensely vivid, and very, very moving.”
The Independent (U.K.)