Dancing at the Rascal Fair

Dancing at the Rascal Fair

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The central volume in Ivan Doig's acclaimed Montana trilogy, Dancing at the Rascal Fair is an authentic saga of the American experience at the turn of this century and a passionate, portrayal of the immigrants who dared to try new lives in the imposing Rocky Mountains.
Ivan Doig's supple tale of landseekers unfolds into a fateful contest of the heart between Anna Ramsay and Angus McCaskill, walled apart by their obligations as they and their stormy kith and kin vie to tame the brutal, beautiful Two Medicine country.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684831053 | 
  • September 1996
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

SCOTLAND AND HELENA

Harbour Mishap at Greenock. Yesterday morning, while a horse and cart were conveying a thousand-weight of sugar on the quay at Albert Harbour, one of the cartwheels caught a mooring stanchion, which caused the laden conveyance and its draft animal to fall over into the water. The poor creature made desperate efforts to free itself and was successful in casting off all the harness except the collar, which, being attached to the shafts of the sunken cart, held its head under water until it was drowned. The dead animal and the cart were raised during the forenoon by the Greenock harbour... see more

Reading Group Guide

Reading group guide for Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig
About the book
From its opening on the quays of a Scottish port in 1889 to its close on a windswept Montana homestead three decades later, this novel is a passionate and authentic chronicle of the American Experience. When we meet Angus McCaskill and Rob Barclay -- emigrants, "both of us nineteen and green as the cheese of the moon and trying our double-damnedest not to show it" -- they are setting off for a new life in a new land, in America, in Montana, "those words with their ends open." We follow their fortunes in the Two Medicine country at the base of the Rocky Mountains: the building of homes and the raising of families, making a living and making a life.
Her is the tale of the uncertainties of friendship and love; here are sheep-shearing contests and raucous dances in one-room schoolhouses; here are brutal winters and unrelenting battles of the will; here is a love of delightful and heartbreaking intensity and another love, born of heartbreak, of an equally moving and stoical devotion.
Questions for discussion
  1. At the start of the book, Angus thinks back on his and Rob's decision to emigrate from Scotland and wonders what Rob's "deep reasons" were. What do you think? And how does Lucas serve as a symbol of the West's promise and perils?
  2. The novel takes place over thirty years and spans several generations. How does Doi
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