Highlights of 2016: Part 1

Atlantic Canada

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.


The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark – A quiet novel, set in small town New Brunswick. Beautifully written. Also on the International Dublin Literary Award Longlist.

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?



39 thoughts on “Highlights of 2016: Part 1

  1. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis says:

    Wow – I can hardly believe that I’ve read only one of these (Flannery – it was a hoot!).

    Of the others, I have an autographed copy of the Morrisey on my reading stack; and Ledger of the Open Hand & Heave on reserve at the library. (Christy Ann Conlin is one of the slated authors for Read by the Sea 2017.). The Joan Clark and Riel Nason were already on my TBR list 😉 but I hadn’t heard of Harbour View or One Hit Wonders (or their authors) so I shall have to investigate them both.

    As for Raddall, I have read His Majesty’s Yankees for book club. It was interesting enough and I learned a LOT but it wasn’t one of my favourite reads. I have had The Nymph and the Light on my radar for a while.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Naomi says:

      It sounds like you’re well on your way to reading most of these other books! I’m hoping to get caught up with Christy Ann Conlin soon, too, by reading The Memento.
      Have you read any by Joan Clark before? The Birthday Lunch is my first, but I own 2 of her others.

      I have to warn you that One Hit Wonders is full of profanity, and also has a lot of drug use. Drug use is usually something I don’t like reading about, but the writing and style of this book really left an impression on me. But I think I remember that you prefer to avoid the profanity, so I thought I’d better warn you.

      If you want to give Thomas Raddall another try, I’d recommend starting with The Nymph and the Lamp – it’s historical fiction but lighter on the history and heavier on the story.
      Happy Reading! 🙂

      • Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis says:

        I’ve read Clark’s Audience of Chairs and Latitudes of Melt, and I have The Word for Home on my bookshelf. I enjoy her writing

        Thanks for the warning about One Hit Wonders; you’re right about me wanting to avoid overuse of profanity.

        The Nymph and the Lamp is on my lifetime reading list. 😉

  2. sarahsbookshelvesblog says:

    I put Ledger of the Open Hand on my TBR back when you reviewed it and of course haven’t gotten to it yet! But, glad to know it was one of your favorites this year…now it’ll definitely survive my end of the year TBR purge!

  3. FictionFan says:

    Goodness, they all sound good! Canada must be having a golden age for fiction at the moment. Since you say it’s the one you’d most recommend, I’ve stuck Ledger on my wishlist, but it’s still prohibitively expensive over here even for Kindle, so it will sit there for a bit till hopefully it comes down to something approaching reasonable. The cheapest new paperback version available costs £57! I dread to imagine what that is in Canadian dollars – maybe $100? It would have to be printed on gold leaf… 😉

    • Naomi says:

      Eek! Over here it’s about $14 for the kindle version, $20 for the physical book. I wish I could buy a bunch and send them over maybe on an airplane and have them attach each one to a parachute and scatter them about. If I decide to do that, I’ll let you know so you can be ready to catch one! 🙂

  4. Sharlene says:

    That cake on the cover certainly caught my eye! Sadly my library never seems very fond of CanLit. I’ve been a blog-friend of Buried in Print, another Canadian blogger, for years, and far too many times a review of hers has made me open my library’s online catalogue only to be disappointed again (and again) by the lack of a lovely CanLit book.

    • Naomi says:

      That’s sad to hear. But it seems to be pretty common. Can you put in special requests for books your library doesn’t carry? (I’m sure Buried in Print has probably already made this suggestion!)

      • buriedinprint says:

        It’s so strange which ones are readily available south of the border and which are not, because Joan Clark’s is from Random House and I would’ve thought it was safe to rave about that one! Hee hee. As for which tempt me most, it’s the Raddell stuff, because you just keep talking him up. But the Patrick Warner quotes are terriific! So I’m tempted there too.

      • Naomi says:

        Yes to Thomas Raddall! I’d like to read another one of his this year sometime. And I’d like to give Werner’s first novel a try.

  5. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    I remember Heave by Conlin tempted me when you first reviewed it. It may be something that I can find through an interlibrary loan request, as I run into the same problem as Sharlene with Canadian books and my library. But if it’s available in another system they can get it for me!

  6. The Cue Card says:

    Maybe I would like the quiet novels you mention by Joan Clark and Riel Nason. I like when a book can put you in a place. Sort of like Sweetland did!

  7. CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian says:

    These all sound great! I’d like to read more Atlantic Canadian fiction too, but I know only 1 or 2 LGBTQ writers from out there. Too bad Leslie Vryenhoek is one of those co-signers of the pro-Steven Galloway letter. I’m not going to read or support any of the authors who signed it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s