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.