#NVCLreadsCdnClassic

NVCL Reads: Canadian Classic

There are so many Canadian classics you could use for the #NVCLreads Canada 150 Bingo contest, how do you choose? Fortunately our Web Specialist David has shared his picks for this category with a great mix of older and modern classics:

twosolitudesTwo Solitudes, by Hugh Maclennan (1945)

Two Solitudes is a multi-generational novel set in Montreal and rural Quebec between World Wars I and II. The story focuses primarily on the fortunes of the French Tallard family. Athanase, the family patriarch, is comfortable in his culture, but his younger English wife struggles to feel accepted in the small town in which they live. Their eldest son, Marius, blames all his problems on the English while Paul, the youngest son, falls in love with an English woman, Heather, and moves back and forth uncomfortably and yet with optimism for a better future, between the two cultures. Hugh Maclennan’s classic masterpiece won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-Language Fiction in 1945, and offers insights into the Canadian psyche that remain relevant today.

 

whohasseenthewind

Who Has Seen the Wind, by W.O. Mitchell (1947)

Brian O’Connall lives in Saskatchewan with his parents, younger brother, strict Scottish grandmother, and the family dog. Described by one reviewer as an “Anne of Green Gables of the prairies”, the book doesn’t have a traditional narrative plot. Instead it’s a series of vignettes from young Brian’s life, and we see him at age four, then six, then eight, and finally at age eleven.  The main theme running through the book is a special feeling that Brian has, one associated with large themes like God and death, and often brought on by the prairie wind: “when it washed through poplar leaves, when it set telephone wires humming and twanging down an empty prairie road, when it ruffled the feather on one of Sherry’s roosters standing forlorn in a bare yard […] always, he noted, the feeling was most exquisite upon the prairie or when the wind blew”.

 

stoneangelThe Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence (1964)

The Stone Angel tells the story of Hagar Shipley. Set in fictional Manawaka, Manitoba, the novel contains a present-day (i.e. 1960’s) narrative in which Hagar – now 90 and full of regret over her joyless and difficult life – is fighting with her son, who wishes to put her in a nursing home. The remainder of the novel looks back into the past and tells Hagar’s story. Toronto Review of Books describes Hagar as “one of the few great and fully realized characters of Canadian literature”. Laurence’s prose is exquisite: a book to read slowly and savour.

 

fifthbusinessFifth Business, by Robertson Davies (1970)

The first novel of the Deptford Trilogy, Fifth Business is considered by some to be the witty and erudite Davies’ finest novel. Dunstan Ramsay has recently retired from a career as a schoolteacher, and is insulted by the lukewarm send-off he has been given. He writes a letter to the head in which he demonstrates that he has in fact led a full and interesting life; that letter is the novel. Why did Davies call it ‘Fifth Business’? Davies seemed to enjoy pranks and he at first claimed that he had taken the term from an obscure Norwegian literary work, and even added a quote from it at the beginning of his novel. When pressed, he later admitted that his story of the title’s origin was as fictional as the novel itself. This is a rich, delightful and moving work.

 

acomplicatedkindnessA Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews (2004)

To finish up, here’s a modern classic, Miriam Toews’ fine second novel, set in the fictional town of East Village, Manitoba. It’s a very small town, mainly Mennonite, with two industries: a chicken slaughterhouse and an artificial ‘heritage’ village at which Toews’ protagonist, 16-year old Nomi Nickel, churns butter for the tourists. Nomi’s mother and sister have both escaped town, unable to bear their lives in East Village, and when he’s not selling off their remaining furniture, her father spends his days sitting by the roadside watching the cars go by. The mood of the town is largely governed by ‘The Mouth’, Nomi’s pastor and uncle. This novel is a rather bleak but powerful exploration of the life of a teenager in a tight-knit and oppressive community. It won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-Language Fiction in 2004.

 

So there’s our top 5 – what would be the one Canadian Classic that you think everyone should read?

Our Favourite Canadian Reads II

We asked staff to share their favourite Canadian read with you. If you’re taking part in our NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo game, you can use these reads for Five Star Reads (#NVCLreadsFiveStar) or use your own favourite (we’d love it if you shared it with us).

DeniseDenise, our Senior Public Services Assistant, loves Anne of Green Gables (series) by L.M. Montgomery.  She says, “I love Anne; her perseverance in the face of adversity inspires, her creative spirit is a source of motivation and her tenacity should be modeled at all times.”

 

curveoftimeOne of our pages Janet is a big fan of The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchett.  She loves “the images of summer vacations on the BC coast in the 1930s – a story of a strong young widow with five young children – packed them all up and spent quality time exploring the coast.”  Janet adds, “We give a copy of this book to all our BC visitors and people always comment afterwards about how much they enjoyed the book.  I own at least two copies at all times.”

davidDavid, our Web Specialist, says his favourite Canadian novel is What’s Bred in the Bone, the 2nd novel in Robertson Davies’ Cornish Trilogy. “Set in part in Germany during the Second World War, it’s an engrossing tale of one Frank Cornish’s journey from childhood in rural Ontario – and from a family with a dark secret – to greatness as an artist, art forger … and spy. Davies’ inimitable novels combine witty, erudite, and elegant prose with highly imaginative and entertaining stories. A great summer read!”

mikale_HayBlogger and Community Librarian Mikale loves Late Nights on Air“Set in 1975, Elizabeth Hay’s story of the lives of the employees of a small CBC radio outpost in Yellowknife, and their accompanying summer canoe trip into the Artic is perfection. It reads like a role of 35mm film, with loons calling over the lake as a soundtrack.”

And finally, the always succinct Sandy, one of our Auxiliary Librarians, recommends “Bonnie Burnard’s A Good House for its clarity, conciseness, honesty and wit.”

We’d love to hear your favourites.  Please share in the comments!

-Patricia

 

 

 

Our Favourite Canadian Reads

We asked staff to share their favourite Canadian read with you.  If you’re taking part in our NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo game, you can use these reads for Five Star Reads (#NVCLreadsFiveStar) or use your own favourite (we’d love it if you shared it with us).

Fereshteh 22Our Multicultural Services Librarian, Fereshteh, raves about Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.   Why? “After so many years,  I can still remember the story  vividly, this book transports the reader to a  world filled with colour , taste, smell and unforgettable characters challenged by their human condition and unpredictable destiny.”

Audrey AdminAudrey, our Administrative Assistant’s all-time favourite Canadian book is The Diviners by Margaret Laurence.  “This classic book, part of the Manawaka series, is not only well written and engrossing, it also accurately depicts small town Canadian life which is familiar to me, being from a small town myself.  I have also visited her homestead in Neepawa, Manitoba!”

Timothy StewartOne of our Auxiliary Public Service Assistants, Timothy, chose a non-fic pick: “My most recent favourite is The NHL: A Centennial History by D’Arcy Jenish. It is well written book with plenty of stories of  how the NHL grew from a struggling league based out of Montreal and Toronto into the predominant hockey league of the modern era.”

Wiedmann, Margaret1As did Margarete, our Special Services Coordinator, who chose 52 best day trips from Vancouver by Jack Christie as her pick. “Jump in your car and go out and explore this great area.  It has so much to offer.  Many of these places can be reached by bus too.  Jack gives some great short adventures usually within ½ hour of the North Shore.  Once you are at you location, you can walk or hike the location, and see its many sight or just sit and enjoy your surroundings.  The book also allows you to plan side trips on the way to your destination.

Why not a new location every day for the summer, or at least a weekend getaway, without the coast of lodging.  Staycation at its best.”

Bear 150And finally our beloved Bear wanted to share his favourite book, Winston of Churchill, though he was pretty quiet on what made it a favourite.  (I wonder why…)

Have a 5-star Canadian read you’d like to share?  Sound off in the comments below!

-Patricia