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Praise for David

“This is an exceptionally well-written novel. Though there is nothing simple about David’s thoughts or story, the reader is drawn into David’s contemplation with the author’s forthright prose and the reader’s own curiosity about how David the child became the intelligent, jaded man so eloquently telling his own story. The characters are all engaging and interesting. This reader wouldn’t mind having whiskey with David herself. Highly, highly recommended!”

Historical News Society

“Canadian author Robertson fictionally re-creates the Elgin Settlement, a refuge for free black men and a terminus of the Underground Railroad in Ontario before the Civil War. Born a slave in 1845 but raised in the settlement, the eponymous protagonist was given an excellent classical education in the expectation that he would become a minister like his mentor, Reverend King. Unfortunately, David reads too deeply in the classics, discovering in them the refutation of religion. Defying Reverend King, David indulges in alcohol and other sins, and is eventually evicted from the colony. As the novel follows David’s path to a successful life as a saloonkeeper in the nearby town of Chatham, he remembers life in the Settlement, the mistakes he made, and the people who made him what he has become. VERDICT: This beautifully written novel with its discontinuous narrative, complex characters, and references to poets, philosophers, and other great thinkers is a challenging read that is well worth the effort. Although Robertson (Home Movies; Heroes; Moody Food; Gently Down the Stream) has won many Canadian literary awards, his work is unfamiliar to American readers. With this novel, he has beautifully brought to life a segment of African-American history that is largely unknown in this country.”

Library Journal

“Robertson uses history as a springboard to a world of the imagination where heightened language creates larger-than-life characters who cast the human condition in startling light. He explores new territory with David and his success will solidify his growing reputation as a Canadian novelist with something significant to say about our country and its people.”

Guelph Mercury

“Robertson has created a masterfully and meticulously written novel that not only brings up issues of race and the shame of our history, but also what we do and don’t owe to others for their roles in our lives.”


“David King is a protaganist who might do Mark Twain proud . . . Apart from its vivid sense of time and place, the strength of Robertson’s novel is the steely distinctiveness of this voice, as unwavering in its prickly pessimism as it is touching in its untethered yearning.”

Toronto Star

“Ray Robertson’s story of an angry black man living in 19th-century Ontario is a mix of historical accuracy and vivid storytelling.”

Globe and Mail

David is a fascinating historical novel . . . Not only does this novel make an important contribution to our growing knowledge of local black history and life in late Victorian Canada, it is a powerful and timeless insight into the human condition.”

Northern Terminus: The African Canadian History Journal