Unless you are a student of Canadian history, or have a strong connection to the town of Markham, Ontario, you are not likely to know that German-born William Berczy co-founded Toronto and was an Upper Canadian pioneer and painter—or that the Government of Canada recently named him a National Historic Person. But this matters not in the enjoyment of a novel based on his life.
Thanks to poet and novelist John Steffler, Berczy occupies front and centre stage in his latest novel, German Mills. Staged between 1772 and 1823, the story is a wild journey into Berczy’s bizarre world.
Steffler sums the story up quite nicely: “Based on Berczy’s compelling, hyperbolic life, German Mills is a portrait of a man entangled in the vain romanticism and restless ambition that propelled the colonial dream and yet lurks just below the surface of Canadian society.”
The writing is superb and the depth of research is obvious—although the author doesn’t let the facts bog him down in the telling of a good tale. Bonus: the cover of the book is downright delicious.
By John Steffler
$29.95, paperback, 336 pp
Gaspereau Press, 2015