Farmyard Odyssey

A lofty subject

If you’ve wondered why so many barns are painted red, David Elias has your answer. Early in The Truth about the Barn, the novelist from Winnipeg tells us, “Red dominates barn colour for the same reason we see it so prominently in the primitive cave paintings of Lascaux, France. As pigments go, it was relatively abundant and easily obtainable to our early ancestors.” Elias doesn’t stop there. He continues with details about why there was “so much ochre lying around” and meanders to a discussion of cosmology, then to God having something to do with it, only to conclude in outer space with a speculation that “extraterrestrial ‘barns’ ” may be red too.

Written with something of a stream-of-consciousness approach, the book engagingly drifts from one folksy rumination to the next. As you hear about runaway farm animals, for instance, it’s suddenly about Mollie, the young horse in George Orwell’s Animal...