Robert Stead – Grain


From the back cover of the novel:

Growing up on a farm in Southern Manitoba, Gander Stake learns to love the prairie, not for its vistas, but for its animal life and for the magic of the new machines that make it prosper. More amazingly, however, he must learn how to love both his family and his grade-school sweetheart.

Grain was published in 1926 and is set against the backdrop of World War I. The novel ponders whether the battle for grain is not as crucial to a nation’s self-worth as the battle in the mud of France.


Grain quickly became one of my favourite novels. It should be required reading for anybody who aspires to be a child of the prairie.

The Afterword, written by an English professor named Laurie Ricou, was a bit high-browed, I thought. One gets the impression that he was not a fan of Stead’s writing. He does, however, end by softening the message somewhat:

The novel Stead wanted to write may have been beyond his reach, but in Grain, within his grasp, is the portrait of the venerably eccentric character, the colour of dialect, the expressiveness of local metaphor, and the fine art of the first furrow — at its best, a novel where the textures of language are a continuing presence in the reader’s mind. 

He obviously did not think it worthy of a Pullitzer. I guess it’s just a story for people of the prairie!

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