This year I tried to focus more on Reading Atlantic Canada, and ended up reading 22 books.
32% of my CanLit reading was from Atlantic Canada.
Newfoundland – 7
Nova Scotia – 12
New Brunswick – 3
PEI – 0 (I’m remedying this right now by reading The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery. It would be nice to read something from PEI by an author who is still alive, though, don’t you think? Any suggestions?)
A few Standouts:
Ledger of the Open Hand by Leslie Vryenhoek – The book is set on the prairies, but the author lives in Newfoundland. I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. I was thrilled to see it on the longlist for the International Dublin Literary Awards.
What’s important, I think, is being sure that you’re making the choice, not just going along with a choice made for you.
Hal McNab made love to his wife for the last time the morning of the day she was killed.
One Hit Wonders by Patrick Warner – This book is a little wild and took me by surprise. Set in Newfoundland. And has a great first paragraph!
We have a complex and utterly flawed relationship with the truth, and we are all implicated in the great mess of it. We survive by seeing only those things we want to see and hearing only those things we want to hear.
It occurs to him that reading a good book is like getting high. The only difference is that the feeling doesn’t wear off. And more than that, books don’t take anything away from you; in fact, the opposite is true, they give you stuff you can use.
Heave by Christy Ann Conlin – Conlin’s first book, set in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.
Dearie was right, way back then: nothing would ever be the same again. But that’s life, nothing ever stays the same, not the small children or fishing villages, or boats and hearts that bounce on the Bay of Fundy waves. White vans will never fly, and little girls will never be mermaids. You never know when the timer’s going to ring.
Harbour View by Binnie Brennan – Set in a retirement home on the Halifax Harbour. A slim gem of a book.
She marvels at the lemons. There is an orderliness about them that brings with it the surprise of tears, that too-familiar burn beneath the eyelids she wishes she could control. But they are perfection, sunshine orbs grown in Spain and stacked here in the produce section on a rainy day in Halifax. Of course she must cry.
Flannery by Lisa Moore – Her first YA novel, set in St. John’s Newfoundland. Fun and refreshing.
I was flabbergasted. That’s the word. It’s a word that shows up in the old yellowed Agatha Christie novels you find at your friends’ summer cabins. There are British people in those novels with big green lawns and rock walls and there are little old ladies who murder people with arsenic or by stabbing their straight through the forehead with an ice pick, and portly butlers with double chins and cooks with bright red faces and rectors, whatever they are. Those are the kinds of people who get flabbergasted.
The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrissey – Set in rural Newfoundland, Donna Morrissey has really nailed the dialogue in this book.
What awful loneliness is that, killing the ones you love? They’re the disheartened. And the abandoned. In the end, their loneliness is the only thing they’re loyal to.
All the Things We Leave Behind by Riel Nason – Another quiet novel set in rural New Brunswick.
There are so many incidents that can start out small and don’t seem like anything at the time but end up meaning so much. There are so many tiny twists in a life that you can never know the ultimate significance of.
The Nymph and the Lamp and Hangman’s Beach by Thomas Raddall – Historical fiction written in the 1940s. The Nymph and the Lamp has been a long-time favourite of mine. Both are set in Nova Scotia, primarily Halifax area.
When you put on the phones it was as if your inner self stepped out of the bored and weary flesh and left it sitting in the chair in that barren room. For a space you were part of another world, the real, the actual living world of men and ships and ports, in which Marina was nothing but a sandbar and a trio of call letters in the signal books. Whistling, growling, squealing, moaning, here were the voices of men transmuted through their finger tips, issuing in dots and dashes, speaking twenty languages in one clear universal code, flinging what they had to say across the enormous spaces of sea.
Which ones tempt you?