Drowning in Darkness

Drowning in Darkness

A tale of unrequited love, Italian superstitions and the origin of tortellini....

Set in a coal-mining town in southern Alberta, this novel evokes elements of the fantastic that exist in the land itself. While one might expect a mine's roof to fall, it is in fact the floor that continually heaves up under a miner's boots.

The methane that seeps from the rock and circulates throughout a coal mine creates this magic, able to soften coal or induce sleep and incite dreams. The mine's gas-marbled darkness and the lost story about a woman from southern Italy bring about a fantastic/mythological suggestion that washes the reader of her tale right back to its beginning.

Drowning in Darkness Reviews

"A marvellous story, layered like the earth. Peter Oliva has written an extraordinary first novel. Exquisitely shaped and perfectly controlled, it establishes a tiny corner of Canada - a coal-mining town in the Crowsnest Pass - as a magical world where myth, legend and momentous heartbreak hang in the air and haunt the inhabitants... Drowning in Darkness takes the reader on a startling leap of imagination."
-The Globe & Mail, Editor's Choice among Best Books of the Year, 1993

"Grab for your imagination. Like the methane gas that robs coal-miners of their lives, Drowning in Darkness will take your breath away... It plunges us into the coal-mining community of the Pass. It is the raw material of the Pass and its people Oliva has taken and worked, shaped and squeezed into this beautiful gem of a book."
-Edmonton Journal. Editor's choice & Book of the Year

"A wonderful, gifted writer." -Yevgeny Yevtushenko

"Canada Noir... beautifully translated... Parmi les Ombres is a grimoire, magic." -Liberation

"A must read." -Courier Francais

"An extraordinary discovery! A wise and rewarding book!" -Alberto Manguel

"Ondaatje's way of talking about immigrant experience in a poetic and expressive manner in In the Skin of a Lion has been adapted by Peter Oliva in Drowning in Darkness which takes place in the coal-mining community of the Crowsnest Pass... Oliva's novel combines history and dream in a complex meditation on suffering and love...one of the four most technically and imaginatively accomplished novels produced between 1983 to 1996." -Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, 2nd ed., 1997

"A charming, deft and gently humorous novel. the great beauty of this novel is its writing. Every sentence possesses polished elegance."
-Literary Review of Canada

"Trapped within a coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass, an Italian immigrant dreams the story of a woman who becomes her own dream, a powerful Bagnarota. Drowning in Darkness explores the lifeline of all potential stories in its ghostly telling and listening. Trapped within story within darkness within a mine within a mountain, this novel outstrips its own space and design. Full of tremendous power, Drowning in Darkness submerges the reader in the magical interruptions of darkness and disappearance." -Aritha Van Herk

"Required Reading." -Ottawa Citizen

"Drowning in Darkness is an unexpectedly powerful novel. From its opening pages, this book grabs the imagination and sprints off into realms of the mythological and the fantastic. It has a magical, mesmerizing quality that makes it hard to put down and harder to forget."
-London Free Press

"A love story that is hauntingly intense and compellingly suspenseful. Read this book. Then read it again." -Prince George Citizen

"Peter Oliva's brilliant humanism in Drowning in Darkness." -Globe & Mail

"A complex, alarming novel. a work of unusual power, a history of prisons, miners, mountains and dreams..." -Anna Foschi, L'eco d'Italia

"Oliva strikes gold with miner novel." -See

"Oliva's Drowning is swollen and seductive." -Excalibur

"Highly recommended." -CBRA, Vol. 20, 1993, p. 169.

"Magical, mesmerizing. packs a wallop." -London Free Press

"Beautifully realized. a lovely breathless book." -Letters in Canada

"Startling Debut.. Drowning in Darkness swirls in myth, dream and memory in a mix as potent as the methane in the mines. This is a novel that will have readers succumbing to its starling power." -Now Literary Supplement

"An ambitious first novel. precise and beautifully written." -Montreal Gazette

"Vivid, hyper-real, unforgettable." -Calgary Herald. Editor's choice

"Beautifully written and conceived. a literary nocturne: dreamy, lush, and pensive." -Quill & Quire. Starred review

"Oliva wins for his magically harrowing and poetically mysterious Drowning in Darkness." -The Edmonton Journal

"Parmi les ombres : le lyrisme canadien" by David Homel
La Presse, Montreal, Feb. 19, 2006.

An Italian review, Gazzetta Del Sud, May 31, 2007: "A fairytale about the craft, as well as the memory of Italy, of Calabria, he makes less intolerable the awareness of one’s fragility.” Italian review, Gazzetta Del Sud, May 31, 2007

Rights Sold

French (Editions Joëlle Losfeld, Gallimard, 2005)


Spanish (Muchnik Editores, 1996)

Spanish edition Drowning in Darkness