canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

by Kevin Patterson
Vintage Canada, 2007

Reviewed by Maria Giuliani

Not long ago I was present during a friendly debate on a topic as old as this country stands: indigenous rights vs. “the white man”. My own contribution to the debate included an illustration using the text, though fiction, of Kevin Patterson’s Consumption.

At its core, this is one woman’s epic tale, following her from childhood through to old age. From her highest points to her deepest anguish, Victoria’s experiences coincide directly with the pull and tug between resident northerners and the ironically transient southerners. Her life illustrates an emotional tide amidst differing political landscapes, where the south represents the land of opportunity as well as a cauldron of damaging possibilities, and the north represents both vulnerability and survival.

The title itself reflects the constant struggle experienced by the book’s characters, to both consume and to avoid being consumed, filtering through the many levels on which consumption can occur, from basic physical survival to intellectual and moral responsibilities.

A doctor practicing in the arctic, Patterson peppers the novel with medically-based storylines and even concludes with a sub-book written in the name of one of Patterson’s characters, himself a doctor. This sub-book is scientific in nature, non-fiction to one standing within the confines of the book, and details how, as southern influences on Inuit communities increase over the course of the novel, so are the chronicled diseases—from infections like tuberculosis to “diseases of affluence” such as diabetes. While I did not take to this excerpt initially, preferring instead to remain inside the borders of Victoria’s heart-wrenching tale, I recognize the importance that this section holds for the book as a whole—emphasizing the reality that is the foundation of this fictional narrative.

Consumption is Patterson’s first novel. There are no holes in this story—no stones left uncovered and no emotions left untouched. Although there are a number of storylines to follow within its 393 pages, Patterson ties them all together beautifully, creating a balance between the scientific, political, and social components that is as seamless as it must have been difficult. This is an amazing read, truly.

Maria Giuliani is a writer of poetry, lyrics, arts reviews and opinionated randomness. Her most recent and exciting endeavours can be found at and






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