The Colonial Hotel: a novel

The Colonial Hotel (1)

ECW Press / a misFit book (2014)

from the back jacket

IN THIS POWERFUL novel of love and family, a doctor named Paris follows a nurse to a country on the brink of civil war. When a confrontation does break out, they are swept up by rebel forces and separated. The nurse, Helen, is pregnant; she escapes, but Paris is left behind, imprisoned by rebels as war rages.

A narrative of brutal power, but also of parental bonds, forgiveness, and identity, The Colonial Hotel recasts for the 21st century the ancient story of Paris, Helen, and Oenone. While the action might be ripped from international headlines, Bennett creates a wholly new take on an age-old tale set in the bleakest aspect of our unstable, yet remarkable, world.

Critical Praise

“Unsparing in his depiction of cruelty, brutality and despair, Bennett steers the reader through an exploration of love and grief, the power of storytelling, the pains of parenthood and uncomfortable truths… Jonathan Bennett has cleverly and sensitively described the many types of love tested by war. The result is a rewarding and intensely moving read: deceptively gruelling, given its slim dimensions, but also — like its heroine — devastatingly beautiful.” – National Post

“…a compelling, lyrical novel of love, suffering and reconciliation.” – Winnipeg Free Press

“We are in Graham Greene territory… a solid novel on morality in our not-quite-postcolonial world.”  – Globe and Mail

“…this short novel is at once lyrical and brutal, alluring in its spare, elegant prose and shocking in its honest portrayal of the realities of political corruption and duplicitous leadership. Bennett is able to demonstrate the timelessness of the themes of the original classic story in this contemporary setting, offering both emotional depth and universal truths about the human condition.” – Guelph Mercury

“A novel of heroic lives and deaths as a poor tropical nation descends into civil war, The Colonial Hotel blends the personal and political in a haunting indictment of human misery. It is also a very moving story of love and hope amid the ruins, with echoes of Graham Greene and J.M. Coetzee.”  – Ronald Wright, CBC Massey Lecturer and author of A Short History of Progress and Henderson’s Spear

“Jonathan Bennett has written an absolutely riveting novel about the brutal and beautiful extremes of being human.”  – Camilla Gibb, author of Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement


hardcover / ebook / AudioBook

(And is available from your favourite bookseller in Canada, US, UK, Australia, NZ, etc.)


Entitlement: a novel 



entitlement covercover_pb_entitlement

ECW Press / a misFit book (2008)

from the back jacket
At its heart, Entitlement is a story about identity; about who we think we are and where we really stand. Set in rural Ontario and with excursions to Toronto and New York City, the novel takes a provocative and honest look at class, power, male relationships, death, and the familial bonds that tie, protect, and harm us most.

Critical Praise

“Bennett’s storytelling is effortless in its pace and time shifts, and his dialogue glints like a sharpened knife.” – Walrus Magazine

“[Bennett] can weave a tale and has the chops to keep it all in a literary vein . . . this is a good book with a crackerjack ending.” Globe and Mail

“Entitlement is an attractive read, and nicely covers a world that goes often uncovered in our own literatures.”  – National Post

“Fast-paced and packed with poignant plot, it is the type of read that keeps you on the edge of your seat, as if you were watching a thriller film.” – Sacramento Book Review

“A brisk Canadian page-turner…Entitlement embraces the Brideshead themes, but with suspense and drive; I read it in mere hours.” – Philadelphia Weekly

“Told with conscientious pacing and an eerie final twist.” – Quill & Quire 

“A devastatingly earnest examination of power, secrets, and loyalty between friends. . . . Deftly written suspense ultimately gives way to an intense, unforgettable conclusion that will have readers ruminating long after the tale is all told.” – Scene Magazine

Entitlement weaves together brilliant imagery of Ontario’s cottage country with a gutsy take on the complexity of male friendship….crafted skilfully and stitched together in some truly riveting final scenes. Entitlement is an ambitious novel with some brilliant flourishes…” – Kitchener Waterloo Record

“Was there ever a question that Jonathan Bennett was fast on his way to cementing his place in Canadian literature? There isn’t anymore.” – January Magazine


hardcover / paperback / ebook / audiobook


Verandah People: stories


Raincoast Books (2003) | ebook: ECW Press (2008)

– Runner Up Danuta Gleed Literary Award
– “Best of 2003” January Magazine

From the back jacket…
In these powerful stories the “verandah people” are Jonathan Bennett’s own compatriots: Australians for whom the ever-present verandah is both stage and shelter, a retreat from a hostile bushland or city street and a seductive barrier to participation in the wider world. Bennett makes us feel the relentless heat of a cloudless day, smell overripe bush, witness the spectacle of a sudden coastal storm. We feel compassion for Bennett’s complex community of Australians, even as they watch the world slip by, longing, from the “safety” of their verandahs.

Critical Praise

“unsettling, raw and vivid…with ravishing language, Bennett’s ability to animate lives within a landscape that dwarfs the human, makes for a memorable read.” – Kirkus Review

“Bennett has a way with a sentence . . . A minimalist with a deft, sure touch, he does a lot with a little, flinging a swaying bridge between the realm of ordinary prose and incandescent poetry.” – Edmonton Journal

“Bennett builds his narratives from the nerves up… he has a naturalist style, punctuated with flashes of lyricism and compelling imagery, and a demonstrated gift for characterization, for revealing personality through an accumulation of detail and action.” Toronto Star

Bennett replicates his hometown, capturing the language, the character, the climate, and the culture with an insider’s intimacy. Australia is indivisible from these stories, much like the south of the United States in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, or the city and suburbs of Prague from Milan Kundera’s work. To read the talented Bennett’s work is to breathe in the eucalypts, hear the magpies warble, and occasionally flinch at a kind of rough justice.”

Bennett’s characters, who make their brief, but intense appearances across the various verandahs, are detailed with a compassionate eye, then are compelled to move, inexorably, each to her or his own personal precipice. Bennett denies his characters shelter, indeed, turns them inside out in savage imagery. He pursues his theme ruthlessly… Ordinary, everyday situations gather with the abruptness of storm clouds in the Australian coastal sky, to climax in terror, separation, loss.” – Globe and Mail

“Bennett’s tremendous talent shines in passages brimming with sensuality. [These stories] evoke the continent’s harsh and exhilarating environment with striking images that transcend mere physical description.” Quill and Quire


paperback / ebook


After Battersea Park


Raincoast Books (2001)

From the back jacket…
In an astonishing twist on the twins-separated-at-birth story, After Battersea Park narrates the lives of 27-year-old brothers Curt and William, the former a jazz musician living in Sydney, the latter a visual artist in Toronto. The brothers, unknown to each other yet leading parallel lives haunted by absence and the need for escape, are drawn inexorably toward a reunion when a suicide begins to unravel the identity of their true parents and the wrenching events of London’s Battersea Park twenty-three years earlier. Part mystery, part love story, Jonathan Bennett’s debut novel deftly examines fractured identities, families and cultures in a tale that spans one year, three continents and two generations. As William and Curt conflate and dissolve they wrestle with the twin masters of memory and truth, reason and passion. Here is a contemporary portrait of two men bound by blood and lies, but liberated by a chance to be both whole and wholly understood.

Critical Praise

” … written in dreamlike prose … offbeat, low-key, [a] surprisingly resonant novel.” Booklist

“Bennett’s characterizations of the twins as extensions of each other through genetic code builds toward Coltrane’s ideal of a yearning searching climax. If resolution evades the search, or, indeed, redefines itself through the search, in After Battersea Park Jonathan Bennett has left both character and reader with—as he beautifully puts it—“loss, such gorgeous loss.”” – Literary Review of Canada

“There is a tenderness here, and a respect for the characters. This is not to say that After Battersea Park is without artifice or technique. Bennett is a skilled enough writer to vary cadence and rhythm, slipping from an almost documentary style into a convincing lyricism when the situation demands.” Quill & Quire

“Bennett is a skilful and modest storyteller, gently leading the reader into the epicentre of the twins quiet grief … After Battersea Park is remarkably sophisticated first fiction.”  Hamilton Spectator


paperback | ebook