Inverted Pyramid, The

The Inverted Pyramid

by Bertrand W. Sinclair


  • September 2011
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-128-3
  • ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-134-4
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 328 pages
  • Novel

Bertrand W. Sinclair’s The Inverted Pyramid, a best-seller when it was first published in 1924, appears now for the first time in a new edition. Writing in the period from 1908 onwards, Sinclair published over fifteen novels, some of which sold in the hundreds of thousands. In The Inverted Pyramid, which critics often cite as his most ambitious novel, he explores Canada’s drift during WWI from a world of production to one based on finance, with all the attendant problems we are still enduring today.

The novel offers a colourful account of British Columbia during this time through the history of two brothers — Rod and Grove Norquay — who belong to an old BC family. Grove, the older brother, takes the family’s assets and invests them in finance — with disastrous consequences.

As the world declines into a depression, Rod is forced to liquidate much of his family’s timber holdings, but he remains hopeful that he and family, working with their own hands, will be able to make a good life for themselves — even as the rest of the world totters into the horrors of modernity.

“Sinclair loved the ‘green timber’ and ‘running water’ of BC, saw dignity and pride in working people, and abhorred pretentious elites and soulless corporations. One of his two most literary novels, The Inverted Pyramid documents the class tensions, rapacious destruction of coastal forests, and uncritical acceptance of individualist and materialist values that characterized pre-war British Columbia.” — Robert A. J. McDonald


“That The Inverted Pyramid’s warnings weren’t heeded is especially unfortunate. Not only was Sinclair almost clairvoyant in his understanding of what unchecked logging would lead to, he was also an astute analyst of human greed. In his novel—based on the real-life collapse, in 1914, of the Dominion Trust Company—it’s hard not to see premonitions of the more recent, ideologically based bankrupting of B.C. “One pair of weak hands could destroy so much,” he wrote. ‘Power in weak hands had torn down the work of four generations.’

Sinclair is writing about the fall of the pioneering, and fictional, Norquays, ruined in less than a single generation by the allure of speculative finance. But almost a century later, these words seem just as apropos when applied to the British Columbia of today.”
The Georgia Straight

“One of the major strengths of the book is the attention paid to historical detail. Sinclair vividly portrays the particulars of the timber industry, including the workers’ demands for better working conditions as well as the financial and environmental catastrophes that occurred in early-twentieth-century logging. Similarly successful is the depiction of greed amidst the major players involved in the Norquay Trust . . . Sinclair’s sweeping narrative of failure and fortune on the west coast of British Columbia drives the reader forward in the novel. He creates characters we both love and despise, and he provides readers with a glimpse into some of the processes that shaped the province.” — Mark Diotte, Canadian Literature