Happy Canada Day!

Hi everyone!  It’s Canada Day, so I thought I’d do my patriotic bit and post a short list of some of my Canadian favourites.  The list is only a reflection of my own reading tastes and not meant to be exhaustive or definitive or anything like that.  Please feel free to share your own favourite Canadian books and authors after you’ve read mine.

A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews:  Story of a Nomi Nickel, teenage girl coming of age in a Mennonite town in Manitoba.  Nomi’s sister and mother can’t live within the moral framework of the town, so they are shunned, and eventually, they each leave.  Nomi and her father examine the relationship between obedience, freedom, and love in this thought-provoking novel.

The Diviners, Margaret Laurence:  It’s a Canadian classic by one of the two great Margarets.  Morag Gunn is orphaned in early childhood, raised by the despised town scavenger, and falls in love with a marginalized Metis.  With outcasts as her earliest influences, Morag decides on a different fate and goes to university to study literature.  The Diviners follows Morag as she builds an early adult life based around notions of respectability, then rebuilds her life to be a truer reflection of who she really is.

Anything at all by Robertson Davies:  I first discovered Robertson Davies as an eighteen year old student and fell in love with the world he depicted.  He usually sets his novels in the academic circles of Toronto and Kingston (which he calls Salterton), although some stories take place partially in Europe.  Big personalities, great art, frequent references to Freud and Jung.  He was my introduction to urban intellectualism, and I’m forever grateful to him for opening my eyes to the possibilities beyond suburbia.

Anything at all by Jane Urquhart:  Urquhart is a master storyteller.  Her finely crafted plotlines weave in a fair amount of carefully researched history, and her landscapes are so vividly painted that they almost become characters in themselves.  She writes lyrically of everything from Niagara Falls to butterflies to Emily Bronte, and a favourite theme is love and loss.

Crow Lake, Mary Lawson:   In a remote northern Ontario village, the Morrison family is preparing for their eldest son, Luke, to go to teacher’s college.  The parents are then killed in a car crash, and Luke decides to stay home and work to support his more academically talented brother Matt and his two sisters Kate and Bo.  When it is Matt’s turn to go to university, he learns that his girlfriend has become pregnant, so he, too, gives up his place.  Kate is heartsick over Matt’s situation, and her inability to embrace Matt’s new life wears away at their relationship.  Crow Lake is a powerful novel about perception, judgement, and family love.

Souvenir of Canada I, II and III, Douglas Coupland:  Field guide to all things Canadian, written in Coupland’s wry and observant voice.  If you’re Canadian, it’s impossible to read without sheepish laughter.  If you’re not Canadian, it’ll give you a pretty good idea of what we’re about.

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8 Responses to Happy Canada Day!

  1. Alex says:

    I’m always drawn to Canadian writers, perhaps because I’ve been luck with those I’ve managed to locate here in the UK. Of course, I was in love with Avonlea as a child and if I’m honest still am. I’m also always first in the queue at the library for any new crime novel by Lousie Penny, who has grown with every book and is now, I think, one of the best crime writers there is. One writer I would like to read more of is Ann-Marie McDonald. I do wish she would publish another novel. So, I will be very grateful for any other writers I can pick up from your experience.

    • Naomi says:

      I love LM Montgomery and grew up with the Anne stories, the Emily stories, and the Story Girl series (which formed the basis for the Avonlea show). I also like Ann-Marie MacDonald. If you like her, you’d probably also like Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief, and there are plenty of East Coast writers (Mary McGarry Morris, David Adams Richards, Ami McKay, Donna Morrissey) whose work features similar themes as “Fall on Your Knees”. I’m not a crime/mystery reader, but plenty of people who come into my library are, and they all swear by Giles Blunt.

      I’m glad you like Canadian writing. I’ve reviewed some Canadian fiction on my blog, but have always wondered if anyone else can access good titles that aren’t by huge names like Atwood. It’s good to know that it’s possible to get the books I recommend, even if you live outside of Canada.

      And for what it’s worth, I love Britain. I’ve only done the London to Oxford stretch, but I had an English/Welsh grandmother and have grown up on so many British books and tv shows that it feels very familiar to me.

  2. Perogyo says:

    What a great list! I need to read Crow Lake.

  3. Looks like more good reading. I can’t keep up!

  4. Touch2Touch says:

    Yes, anything at all by Robertson Davies. He wrote a lot, but alas, not enough, if he was going to go ahead and die on us prematurely.
    (I know he was fairly old, but dying at all was premature, in his case.)

    • Naomi says:

      I agree. He was wonderful. I haven’t read anyone else who sounds like him and I’m deeply grateful to him for his contributions toward the Stratford Festival. I’ve read everything he’s written and wish there was something new/undiscovered.

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