The year is 1856. An English apothecary, J G Hallam is sent by his father to open a shop in the New World, but when that business failed, he became a reluctant partner in a photography firm. This book depicts the way time alters the contours of even the things we hold most certain. It shows what suffering the absence of a beloved means.
As he slips beneath the waves of Toronto's harbour, Professor David Hollis follows in death the man he pursued in the last months of his life, English apothecary J. G. Hallam. One hundred and fifty years earlier, Hallam had been sent by his father to open a shop in the New World, but when that business failed, he became a reluctant partner in a photography firm. In 1856, the company was offered the opportunity to work for the municipal government, and the bleak and ungainly young city took shape before Hallam's lens. But after presenting the photographs in England, Hallam's ship sank in a violent storm on Lake Ontario and the strongbox holding the photographs was lost. The shoreline of the harbour has shifted dramatically over a century and a half, and David Hollis, driven in his pursuit of this important historical record, speculates that the sunken ship containing the photographs is in the landfill where the city's new Union Arena is to be built. With almost no one on his side but his daughter's fiance, John Lewis, Hallam presents his findings, which are met with howls of derision from his colleagues. Three months later, he's dead, and Lewis joins the grieving widow, Marianne, in a furtive, unsettling quest to vindicate her husband. Installed in a hotel overlooking the excavation site where the arena is to stand, they await the moment when a piece of the past reappears that might alleviate the anguish of these civic and private vanishings. Exquisitely crafted and masterfully told, Michael Redhill's haunting new book moves seamlessly between Toronto's past and present, depicting the way time alters the contours of even the things we hold most certain. "Consolation" evokes the mysteries of love and memory, and what suffering the absence of a beloved truly means.