[REVIEW] The Bear – Claire Cameron

Claire Cameron
The Bear
Hachette Little, Brown Back Bay (US: 11th February 2014); Random House (CA: 11th February 2014; UK: 13th February 2014; AU: 3rd March 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Young siblings Anna and Alex (aka Sticky) are on their own. Their parents will meet them back on the mainland, once they’ve healed from injuries caused by a “black dog”. Or will they? Anna rows the boat, as the novel transitions from thriller to survivalist.

Whilst the first part is confusing but engrossing, the second has far too many mentions of bodily functions, all TMI for me. Maybe readers who have young children won’t be bothered by it, though.

The fourth part examines the aftermath of such traumatic events. (The bear attack, not the faeces. Maybe.) We also learn more about the parents’ relationship, but the most outstanding character is the kids’ grandfather.

The six-year-old’s first-person narrative is annoying at times, due to Anna’s train of thought which jumps around. Also, the bear is referred to as “the black dog”, which doesn’t make sense. Anna is six, so she should know what animals look like. Is it because her teddy bear, Gwen, is brown, that because the real bear is a different colour, they’re not both bears? Or is this dissociative? There’s a scene wherein Anna draws Gwen, but the child psychologist thinks she draws the real bear.

I must’ve read the Author’s Note about seven times, Part 1 about five times, and Part 3 twice. That’s a lot of re-reading, which ordinarily I wouldn’t do, so it’s a testament to the author’s fascinating choice of story.

Claire Cameron’s experience and research makes the Algonquin Park setting come to life in this disturbingly memorable tome. Inspired by an extraordinary event, The Bear demonstrates the resilience of young children in tragic circumstances. Hopefully this novel will boost sales of large, metal coolers – they truly can be lifesavers.

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