In Spadework, Timothy Findley marries his passions for playwriting and prose in a novel about theatre people in a theatre town whose reliance on dialogue and visual clues make it read almost like a play. Jane Kincaid is a wealthy southern belle who abandons her life as a daughter of privilege in Louisiana in order to become a set designer. She moves to Stratford, Ontario, home of the Stratford Festival, with her son Will and husband Griffin, a stage actor on the cusp of fame. When the gardener accidentally severs their phone line with his spade, things begin to go awry in unexpected ways. A missed call to his director, Jonathan, leads ambitious and self-absorbed Griffin to become Jonathan's lover in order to win back his favour and some choice parts in next season's productions. A beautiful phone repairman comes to fix the line, and Jane falls in love with him.
Some aspects of the narrative seem unconvincing or irrelevant, such as a murderer on the loose whose existence only peripherally contributes to the mood and plot. A compelling tale that successfully draws the reader into the theatre world in general, and into idyllic Stratford in particular, Spadework lacks the substance and depth of character of Findley's other works, including Not Wanted on the Voyage and, more recently, Pilgrim. --Leah Eichler