#NVCLreadsHistorical

NVCL Reads: Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has the power to transport its readers to other times and other places. From Nova Scotia to Ireland, from the 1600s to the Second World War, Colleen shares some Canadian historical fiction that’s sure to engross you.
brideofnewfranceBride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers

In 1669, two young Parisian women, Laure and Madeleine, are sent across the Atlantic to New France as filles du roi, or “daughters of the king”. This haunting first novel explores the challenges that a French girl faces coming into womanhood in a brutal time and place. From the moment she arrives, Laure is expected to marry and produce children with a brutish French soldier who can barely survive the harsh conditions of his forest cabin. But through her clandestine relationship with Deskaheh, an allied Iroquois, Laure discovers the possibilities of this New World.*

birthhouseThe Birth House, by Ami McKay

This novel is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of Rares. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B.’s apprentice, and together they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives. Filled with details as compelling as they are surprising, The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.  The novel was a # 1 bestseller in Canada, winner of three CBA Libris Awards, and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.*


wonderThe Wonder: a novel
by Emma Donoghue

A small village in 1850s rural Ireland is baffled by Anna O’Donnell’s fast, which began as a self-inflicted and earnest expression of faith. After weeks of subsisting only on what she calls “manna from heaven,” the story of the “miracle” has reached a fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O’Donnell family’s modest cabin hoping to witness, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.

A magnetic novel written with all the spare and propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, The Wonder works beautifully on many levels—a simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.*

wildrose
Wild Rose
, by Sharon Butala

Sophie was a sheltered girl from a well-off Montreal family in the 1880’s when she married hastily and went off to sparsely-populated southern Saskatchewan to begin her married life as a homesteader.  Before long she is abandoned by her husband and desperately struggling to survive with her young son.  Sharon Butala has been writing contemporary novels set on the prairies for over 30 years; this is her first historical novel.
winterseaThe Winter Sea , by Susanna Kearsley (alternate title “Sophia’s Secret)

Writer Carolyn McClelland is staying in a seaside cottage on the east coast of Scotland, where she is working on a book about the attempted Jacobite invasion of 1707.  Inexplicably drawn to Slains Castle, and not so inexplicably drawn to the charming, but somehow familiar, Stuart Keith, Carolyn is soon writing with an unusual speed and imagery which leads her to wonder whether her ‘fictional’ character of Sophia is really so fictional after all.  Carolyn soon realises that she is somehow channelling the memories of her distant relative and that her story has a life of its own.*

nightfallovershanghai
Nightfall Over Shanghai
, by Daniel Kalla

Local emergency doctor Daniel Kalla has written a terrific series about the Jewish community in Shanghai, China.  Starting in The Far Side of The Sky, after fleeing the Nazi takeover in Austria, the Adler family ends up in Japanese-occupied Shanghai to begin a new life.  Shanghai-born Sunny joins their family and through the two sequels, Rising Sun, Falling Shadow and Nightfall Over Shanghai, they endure loss and hardship through to 1945 when at last they hope to live freely once again.  There is talk of a movie and/or television series based on this trilogy and I can even see an opening for a fourth book.

-Colleen

* from the publisher’s description

NVCL Reads: Written by a Margaret

Margaret_Atwood_2015Whether you love her or loathe her, there’s no denying that when many of us think of Canadian literature, we think of Margaret Atwood.  And with a hit TV show — and the Trump administration in full (golf) swing — there’s no denying our Margaret’s work is enjoying a renaissance.  If you’re planning to read #NVCLreadsMargaret this summer, you may look no further than The Handmaid’s Tale, or you may want to get your hands on Atwood’s Angel Catbird graphic novels, or her books for children.  However, if you decide you’d like to branch out from Atwood, Canada has several awesome Margarets for you to choose from.

stoneangelThe next most obvious choice is Margaret Laurence, best-known for writing books you have been forced to read in high school (The Diviners, The Stone Angel) and loved anyway.     Her earlier works, like This Side Jordan, are set in Ghana, where the Laurences lived for a few years.

mr jonesMargaret Sweatman is yet another solid choice.  She’s even won the Margaret Laurence Award for fiction (thus effectively doubling her Margaret-ness).  We recommend Mr. Jones. “Set in a time of rampant paranoia, Mr. Jones peels back the veneer of Canadian politics to reveal a nation willing to sacrifice its own. It is a fearful time, a time of “peace” at the onset of the nuclear age.” (description from publisher)

Sweatman’s works also work for #NVCLreadsHistorical or #NVCLreadsWinner

momentary darkIf poetry (#NVCLreadsPoetry) is more your speed, try Margaret Avison’s Momentary Dark, “a celebration of the world, but not without edge and a quiet challenge to care for a damaged earth and all its citizens equally, including a veritable populace of city trees graciously and beautifully linking the earth and the sky” (description taken from the publisher).

This would also work for #NVCLreads200 and  #NVCLreadsPoetry

cougar annieAnd finally, if you like your Margarets with a healthy dose of non-fiction, you might want to check out Margaret Visser, Margaret Horsfield, or Margaret Macmillan.  In her Massey Lecture, Beyond Fate, Visser “investigates what fate means to us, and where the propensity to believe in it and accept it comes from.”  Horsfield meanwhile takes local history as her muse, writing extensively about Tofino and Clayoquot Sound.  Like Horsfield, Macmillan is inspired by history.  She focuses mainly on the late 19th and early 20th century, and is best known for her book 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

 

Whatever your reading tastes, we’ll bet there’s a Canadian Margaret for you.

-Patricia

**For those of you just joining us for NVCL Reads: Canada 150 bingo, please download your bingo card from our website.  Five lucky winners will each receive a $25 gift card to a local bookstore!

NVCL Reads: Under 200 Pages

If you’re anything like me, when faced with limitless possibilities, you may have a hard time with choices. So, where to start with NVCL Reads: Canada 150? Why not try something you can read in a sitting or two – something easily tucked into your bag for a trip outside to the park or the beach? Perhaps that something just might be conveniently: Under 200 Pages! The following books may be slight in width and light in weight, but they pack an outsize amount of thought and intensity into their small # of pages.

The PenelopiadThe Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood

In The Odyssey, Penelope — daughter of King Icarius of Sparta, and the cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy — is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife. With incomparable wit and verve, Atwood gives the story of Penelope new life and reality. #NVCLreads200 #NVCLreadsMargaret

 

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner. #NVCLreads200 #NVCLreadsFamily

Under the Stone by Karoline Georges, translated by Jacob Homel

From birth, the child was locked away in a minuscule cell, at #804 of level 5969 of the Edifice. Favourably compared to George Orwell’s 1984, this recent translation from the original French is not to be missed. According to La Presse, Homel has perhaps created a new genre: “the claustrophobic novel”.

The Scream by Rohinton Mistry

Set in a Bombay apartment, The Scream is narrated by a man at the end of his life, who is angry at the predicament of old age, at his isolation from his family and from a world that no longer understands him. He rails and raves in ways that are both hilarious and moving, and which touch us with recognition.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje 

At the turn of the century, the Storyville district of New Orleans had some 2000 prostitutes, 70 professional gamblers, and 30 piano players. But it had only one man who played the cornet like Buddy Bolden. By day he cut hair and purveyed gossip at N. Joseph’s Shaving Parlor. At night he played jazz as though unleashing wild animals in a crowded room. At the age of thirty-one, Buddy Bolden went mad. #NVCLreadsHistorical

Money Boy by Paul Yee

Ray Liu, an 18 year old newcomer to Canada, knows he should be happy. He lives in a big suburban house with all the latest electronic gadgets, and even finds plenty of time to indulge in his love of gaming. It’s tough getting grades that will please his army veteran father when speaking English is still a struggle. But when his father accesses Ray’s Internet account and discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites, his belongings are thrown on the front lawn and suddenly he’s homeless. #NVCLreadsVancouver

After reading any of these selections, you’ll have your answer to, “Just how much can you fit in 200 pages?” Got more ideas for Under 200 Pages? Please share in the comments!

-Kate