Author wins on two fronts

Comox Valley Record – May 09, 2008

Hornby Island author Janey Bennett is winning awards for both the content and the packaging of her first novel A Pale Surface of Things.

This week, it was announced the Publishers Association of the West drug rehab center Texas had awarded the book and its independent publisher Hopeace Press the gold medal for best use of environmental materials. “It makes me feel slightly less guilty for all the trees and water I’ve used in my life,” said Bennett, who lives part-time on Hornby Island, laughingly about the award. “It pleased me … it pleased me a lot.” The first 4,000-book run of The Pale Surface of Things was printed by Friesens Printing using 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper and vegetable inks. According to an eco-audit, that choice saved 53 full-grown trees, 19,000 gallons of water, 27 million BTUs of energy, 2,473 pounds of solid waste and 4,640 pounds of greenhouse gases. Bennett said she hoped the award would raise attention to the availability of such products, and show people the difference those decisions can mean.And while she was happy her book could represent that, she was especially pleased with an award announced later in the week for the story itself. The Pale Surface of Things was announced as first-place winner of the national indie excellence awards in multicultural fiction.

The book is set on the Greek island of Crete, and examines the difference in values of a young American man and the people of a small village he arrives in. She said the book wasn’t so much about being multicultural, as pitting different backgrounds against each other, to see what it would take to integrate. “What I set out to write was, what would it take … to move an unaware mindless young American into being an integrated person and part of a culture,” said Bennett. The Pale Surface of Things is Bennett’s first novel. For more information, visit
Link to Comox Valley Record Bennett article

Comox Valley Record Review


Janey Bennett’s first novel has it all: adventure and suspense in an exotic location, a full cast of interesting characters, and thoughtfully rendered philosophical ideas…

In The Pale Surface of Things, Bennett masterfully interweaves characters’ interior journeys with fast-paced action set on the Greek island of Crete. Her writing is simple yet elegant, and creates a strong sense of place that greatly enriches the novel.

The book opens with Douglas Watkins, a young American who has never thought for himself, fleeing his wedding. He becomes caught up in the lives of the Cretans he meets in a small village.

Most important to Douglas are the American Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. Dimitrios, and Aleko, an intelligent young boy. Fr. Dimitrios helps Douglas to think about the consequences of his actions, and has a fascinating story of his own. Aleko is unwittingly involved in the feud that creates much of the novel’s action, and his uncle is convincingly awful as the villain of the story.

During the curse of a series of adventures, Douglas begins to understand what is important in life. If this makes the novel sound preachy, it’s not. A sense of ethics permeates Bennett’s writing, but usually not in a simplistic way.

The novel is about what is meaningful in individual lives, not the meaning of life in some grand sense. A number of characters are ordinary people with some extraordinary experiences who are struggling to live authentic lives.

There is a mythic aspect to the way Douglas faces one trial after another, and in some ways each prepares him for the next. However, The Pale Surface of Things is definitely written as a novel, not as a fairy tale or a simple morality play, and is informed by modern psychology and philosophical ideas from modern and ancient times.

If there is any criticism of this novel, it is that sometimes forgiveness comes too easily, dilemmas are resolved without much difficulty. But this Is more the exception than the rule. Many of the characters’ problems do not have easy solutions.

Characters try to come to terms with their personal histories, many of which, among the Cretans, are inseparable from the tragedies from the war.

The Pale Surface of Things is fascinating for its ideas, but it is first and foremost a wonderful story with interesting characters, and is well worth reading.

— Anna Marie Krohn

Amazon Review- Grady Harp

What the critics are saying about The Pale Surface of Things:

“Janey Bennett makes a startlingly fine debut as a novelist with THE PALE SURFACE OF THINGS. …. Bennett creates a propulsive novel that is a most satisfying read on many levels.

“Crete, in so many ways, is the main character in the novel, and Bennett knows her way around her stage as well as anyone who writes. THE PALE SURFACE OF THINGS is a solid, intoxicating novel that gently reminds the reader of the importance of philosophical issues and the way they mold lives. It is a smart, entertaining, superb novel!”

— Grady Harp
Top 10 Reviewer,

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