Manitoba Books

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Manitoba Books

Ago 18, 2009, 10:52am

This is a thread for listing and discussing books with a Manitoba setting.

Ago 18, 2009, 2:31pm

Carol Shields sets many of her books in Winnipeg. My favorite is Larry's Party, which is also set in Toronto and other places, but Winnipeg is central.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews is highly regarded (even if I didn't like it) and is about a Mennonite girl in a small town in the south of Manitoba.

Ago 18, 2009, 9:53pm

I read Larry's Party this year, but I didn't count it in this challenge. Somehow it just didn't say "Manitoba" to me. (That of course shouldn't stop anyone from using it if they want!). And count me in as a Complicated Kindness lover.

Ago 18, 2009, 11:00pm

Don't forget The Stone Diaries!

For non-fiction, The Desire of Every Living Thing by Don Gillmor isn't half-bad.

Ago 19, 2009, 12:27am

I really didn't like A Complicated Kindness the first time I read it. I was blessed to have a chance to read the book and then meet the author in my first year at University.

The thing about the book is that because it is so disjointed one reading is not enough. Also knowing a bit about the author's own history helped me to understand this book better. When I was looking at the essay questions the one that I felt was going to challenge me the most was about CK and I found that in going through the book looking for the quotes I was drawn into the novel. The funny thing to me was I was looking for quotes on the main charater's relationships and how love related to those relationships and I found that as I started reading the quote that I felt would work I had to read the surrounding material and then I found that I was not only reading the book for quotes but re-reading the book because I was enjoying it.

I found that to truly understand the book you have to read it more then once, and in the second or third reading you may find that you really enjoy it after all.

And I just have to say that Miss Toews is really supper perky and nice...and I am the proud owner of a first edition autographed copy of the novel...all thanks to a great class that introduced the students to Canadian authors.

Ago 25, 2009, 9:37pm

Being a big fan of A Complicated Kindness and pretty much anything written about southern Manitoba, I decided to read A Boy of Good Breeding for my Manitoba selection. I started it half an hour ago and I've already been laughing out loud.

Editado: Sep 3, 2009, 1:21pm

Margaret Laurence's Manawaka cycle is set in Manitoba. Titles include: The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, The Diviners, The Fire-Dwellers, and A Bird in the House.

Sep 3, 2009, 10:14pm

I have When Alice lay down with Peter by Margaret Sweatman on my to read list, whether or not I will get to it before the end of the year I don't know.

I did read I am Hutterite earlier this year though which is a memoir, not a novel, but I would recommend it to anyone who liked A complicated kindness. Some of Sandra Birdsell's books also have a Manitoba Mennonite background.

I really need to reread The Stone angel sometime too, it's on my list. Thanks for the reminder Cait86.

Sep 4, 2009, 3:20pm

#8: My pleasure! A Jest of God is really wonderful too.

Sep 4, 2009, 3:26pm

I also read another book set in Manitoba earlier this year: Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso. It is an obscure Canadian novel from the 1920s, and I found it in my university used book store for $2. My review is on the book's page - I really enjoyed it, and it definitely captures the feel of the prairies.

Sep 4, 2009, 4:30pm

Your university has a used book store? How cool is that? I'm jealous. Last year we had a mega used book sale United Way fundraiser, but it was only three days. What's "your" university, anyway? Mine is Simon Fraser.

Sep 4, 2009, 7:36pm

I went to the University of Waterloo, and even though I graduated over a year ago, I still think of myself as a student there - I just identify with the campus, the people, the work, etc., so much.

The used bookstore is fantastic. People sell their textbooks, and the English Lit section is great. Often they don't run the same courses year after year, or if they do they choose different novels. Since no one buys the novels to use for a class, you can get them at a huge discount, usually no more than $5. I've found a ton of great books there. Sometimes they have notes in them from lectures, but I think that makes them more enjoyable :)

Are you still a student at Simon Fraser?

Sep 4, 2009, 9:25pm

A used university bookstore would be great. I agree that lecture notes would add value to the book. I'll have to find the suggestion box at SFU and write this up. I'm there for two courses this fall and then two in spring, and then I'll graduate. It's taken me forever because I have kids and a husband that I have to schedule around (my 9 year old was a year old when I started).

Sep 5, 2009, 4:07pm

I checked your profile, and your Prairie Lit class looks great! I read As for Me and My House earlier this summer, and Under the Ribs of Death for a class a few years ago. I think that's awesome that you are in school while having a family too!

Oct 16, 2009, 10:25pm

Oh la la! We have forgotten Gabrielle Roy! Her best example of Manitoba fiction is probably Ces enfants de ma vie based on her experience as a school teacher in Northern Manitoba.

Oct 17, 2009, 8:49am

That one sounds good, Cecil. I think I'll look for it.

Oct 17, 2009, 8:53am

Found it on - english translation - "Children of my Heart" - paperback is about $12.00 Cdn. Thanks Cecil :)

Oct 18, 2009, 11:01am

I didn't know she'd written anything other than The Tin Flute (set in Quebec). I'll have to find this one.

Oct 18, 2009, 6:48pm

I'm currently reading Gabrielle's Roy's The Road Past Altamont for my Manitoba selection.

Oct 19, 2009, 4:45pm

I recently read Under the Ribs of Death, by John Marlyn. It's about the son of Hungarian immigrants growing up in poverty on the north side of Winnipeg from just before WW1 in to the Great Depression. I didn't much like it, but it just oozes Manitoba-ness. And yesterday I finished Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, most of which is set in Manitoba.

Oct 28, 2009, 4:16pm

Cait86 @ 12 - NO! You've only recently graduated! So, the 86 is your birth year?! I'm flabbergasted! I've been reading your reviews for months. (Funny - as I was going through these posts and clicking book links, I found quite a few of your reviews that I'd already thumbed up.) Your writing is much more mature than I would expect from your age.

I don't say that lightly. My oldest son was born in '86, too; he graduated summa cum laude from his university, taking many honors along the way, including being a Rhodes scholar finalist, and is now in his second year of medical school. He's a really bright kid, but I don't think HE could've written those reviews.

Wonderful work! Do you make your living with words?

Oct 29, 2009, 9:53am

Last night I finished Kiss of the Fur Queen, by Tomson Highway, which I highly recommend as a Manitoba read. It's about two indigenous brothers from the north of the province who are taken away from their family and sent to residential school. They grow up to have careers in the arts. The book is tragic and funny, all wrapped up with excellent writing.

Abr 17, 2010, 12:24am

I just finished The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews. Another Toews novel set in southern Manitoba, although this one also takes a journey south the the US / Mexico border. Good effort by Toews; a somewhat standard family-member-with-mental-illness novel, with some very likeable and memorable characters.

Mayo 4, 2010, 11:31pm

I just bought that book today! I was lucky enough to find a hardcover for $1! :) Looking forward to getting a chance to read it, my TBR pile floweth over.

Found this book set in Winnipeg today, has anyone heard about/read it?
Some Great Thing by Lawrence Hill.

Mahatma Grafton is a disillusioned university graduate burdened with a famous name, and suffering from the curse of his generation – a total lack of interest in the state of the world. The son of a retired railway porter from Winnipeg, he returns home for a job as a reporter with The Winnipeg Herald. Soon Mahatma is scoping local stories of murder and mayhem, breaking a promise to himself to avoid writing victim stories.

As Mahatma is unexpectedly drawn into the inflammatory issue of French-language rights in Manitoba, with all its racial side-channels, he is surprised to find that he has a social conscience. Combating his boss's flair for weaving hysteria into his stories, Mahatma learns that to stay afloat he must remain true to himself.

Populated with colourful characters – including an unlikely welfare crusader, a burned-out fellow reporter, a French-language-rights activist, and a visiting journalist from Cameroon – Some Great Thing is a fascinating portrait of a major urban newspaper and a deeply perceptive story of one man's coming of age.

Mayo 5, 2010, 2:33am

#Bcteagirl, I haven't heard of that one but I have Somone Knows my Name by Lawrence Hill. Haven't read it yet.

I've been an inactive member of this group - as usual, as soon as I decide to do a challenge my reading veers off in another direction. But I've just found and finished a Virago Modern Classic set in Manitoba - Aleta Dey. It was a good read but not a great one. It's the story of a girl growing up on the prairies of Manitoba in the 1890s and early 1900s. She grows up and becomes very committed to women's suffrage, then pacifism.

#8-10 Cait, I have the Manawaka books and Wild Geese waiting. Thanks for the reminder! (although now I must colour in another bit of the map...)

Mayo 5, 2010, 11:43am

I love the idea of a map, I may have to set one up myself! :P Just need to find a way to colour them different colours (For one book read vs. 2 etc).

Oct 29, 2010, 10:28pm

Shelf Monkey is in the CBC reads top 40 Canadian books of the decade and sound quite interesting. I haven't read it yet, but have added it to my wishlist. Has anyone here read it?

Nov 4, 2011, 6:26am

I'm just reading the graphic novel Louis Riel. It's excellent, and takes place in Manitoba -and wee bit in Saskatchewan.

Nov 24, 2011, 9:56pm

I read Shelf Monkey shortly after it came out. It's quirky but eminently readable. This is a quote from my review at the time:
Thomas Friesen is the embodiment of every nerdy kid who dreams of growing up and kicking ass. The fact that he is from Winnipeg and carries out his revenge in Winnipeg is just icing on the cake for another nerd who lives in Winnipeg.

Nov 24, 2011, 10:13pm

I've never heard of Shelf Monkey, but it sounds really fabulous. It just shot up to the top of my wishlist and I'm sure it will soon be on my TBR pile.

Feb 12, 2012, 4:11pm

Shelf Monkey is supposed to be great.. it is already on my wishlist and I may actually end up having to spring for a *gasp* new copy :P

Editado: Feb 3, 2014, 10:00pm

Oh! Oh! Oh! Someone above recommended I Am Hutterite for anyone who liked A Complicated Kindness.

Well, count me among the people who didn't like A Complicated Kindness, but I really liked I Am Hutterite, so if you are interested in Hutterite culture, or just want to try a memoir, give it (I Am Hutterite) a try, anyway. :-)

Feb 3, 2014, 10:27pm

^32 Ooh, I bet I would like that. :-) I'm from the States, but my husband grew up in Manitoba. His parents were doctors in a very small town, and served a Hutterite colony as well. (Plus it would satisfy both my states/provinces challenge and my goal to read more nonfiction.)

Feb 4, 2014, 10:44pm

33. From what I'm remembering, it's also pretty short, so quick to read. I hope you like it!

Feb 6, 2014, 5:20pm

I really liked I Am Hutterite (it is a quick read) but really didn't like A Complicated Kindness.

Jun 21, 2014, 4:21pm

I really liked Le Soleil du Lac qui se couche by JR Léveillé (The Setting Lake Sun in English, translated by SE Stewart). Set in Winnipeg and Thompson, it shows both the city and country in Manitoba, while reflecting on its rich Francophone and Native heritage (through the Métis narrator) and its welcome of new cultures (her Japanese lover).

Sep 6, 2014, 6:30pm

Though this is set in all the Prairies, Manitoba (Winnipeg) is the most prominent setting, as a good portion of the book is a memoir, and that's where the author lived:
The Winter Years: The Depression on the Prairies / James H. Gray

Sep 9, 2018, 7:49pm

Have to add Where Nests the Water Hen by Gabrielle Roy to this list. Set 80 years ago in what was then a remote area of the province Roy shows what life was like for the Tousignant family and how getting a teacher to come for a few years changed things.

Oct 19, 2018, 11:43pm

The Age of Hope / David Bergen
4 stars

Hope was born in 1930. She was fairly young when she married Roy. They lived in the small Mennonite town of Eden, Manitoba. They had four children, and we follow Hope’s thoughts and feelings throughout her entire adult life, as she marries, becomes a mother to her four children, while Roy is mostly working. She feels lonely and Roy doesn’t understand since she has four kids around. But, Roy loves her; he is a nice man and treats her well. But, sometimes Hope has trouble and needs some help. The story follows Hope through her entire life.

There is not a whole lot to the story, ultimately, and definitely not fast-paced, but it was still really good. The (male!) author does a really good job of bringing us into Hope’s world, I thought.

Oct 21, 2018, 1:03pm

>39 LibraryCin: Even though David Bergen is a local author and he has a good reputation I have never been a fan of his writing. That said this is his best book I think.

Oct 21, 2018, 4:11pm

>40 gypsysmom: I noticed that there were a few people who weren't crazy about this one. It is the only one I've read by him.

Jul 2, 2019, 2:13am

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training / Tom Jokinen
4 stars

What happens behind the scenes when someone dies until they “appear” at the funeral? The author looks at this, in addition to the business of being an undertaker, in all the historical changes – from burial to cremation… and still to come, green burials. He works with a family funeral home in Winnipeg where he learns all the different aspects of the business. He also heads to California, where he learns more about green burials (at the time of writing – this was published in 2010 – in Canada, the only place you could have a green burial was in Guelph, Ontario, and somewhere in BC was building someplace for it), then to Las Vegas for an undertaker trade show – see all the new and best in funerial apparel!!

I found this really interesting. Of course, there was a bit of humour thrown in here and there. In such a business, I think there needs to be!

Sep 2, 2019, 3:19pm

The Accidental Veterinarian: Tales from a Pet Practice / Philipp Schott
4 stars

The author is a veterinarian in Manitoba, and this is a memoir of how he became a vet, as well as anecdotes of his practice, including not only the pets/animals he sees, but also the people and behind the scenes, as well. It was originally written as a series of blog posts (or most of the stories, anyway).

I found this really interesting; in addition to the animal stories, he discusses things like costs, diseases, etc. He gives tips on dealing with your vet, as well as dealing with your pet (i.e. giving a pill to your cat!). He also talks about the people he sees. Because it’s written in short “essays”, it moves from one topic to the next quickly, but that didn’t really bother me. I really enjoyed this!

Mayo 17, 2020, 1:46pm

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography / Chester Brown
3.5 stars

Louis Riel was a charismatic Metis leader in the late 19th century who led a couple of rebellions as the government of Canada wanted to set up Manitoba and West differently from how the First Nations, Metis, and others already settled there wanted it done. Riel was later hanged. This is a graphic novel that depicts his battle with the government.

It was good. I think the graphic novel format does make it more interesting than I remember it from high school (what little I do remember, and I’ve even been to Batoche, one of the sites in Saskatchewan where he fought). The illustrations were simple, black and white images, but I think they portrayed things well. There is a large notes section at the end that expands what was included in the story. I think the notes took as long or longer to read through than the graphic novel portion itself, but it does add quite a bit of extra info.

Jun 14, 2020, 4:57pm

Kiss of the Fur Queen / Tomson Highway
3 stars

Champion (later Jeremiah) and Gabriel are Cree, living in northern Manitoba. When they are young, in the ‘60s, they are sent away to a residential school. This book follows them beyond the residential school as they grow into adults.

There was some magical realism in the book, which I’m not a fan of. It didn’t make sense to me. The book skipped ahead – skipped years in their lives – quite a bit. That is, we’d get a very brief time at their age, then suddenly (without any real indication beyond a new chapter or part), we would have advanced years. Some of it was good and held my interest, but much of it was also very vague, and you had to figure out what was going on... it wasn’t clear. I hate that. Despite this mostly negative-sounding review, I am rating the book “ok”, for the parts that I liked.

Jun 14, 2020, 7:49pm

>45 LibraryCin: I adored Kiss of the Fur Queen (see >22 Nickelini:, above ). That was a 5-star read for me, and one of my favourite book that I read at university.

Jun 14, 2020, 9:01pm

>46 Nickelini: I wish I had enjoyed it more!

Jun 15, 2020, 12:02am

>47 LibraryCin:
Studying it at university might have helped -- when I had to write about a topic and think about it critically, I almost always ended up developing a deeper admiration. And I like magic realism too, so that helped. Oh, well, there are more great books out there waiting for you

Jun 16, 2020, 5:44pm

If you are looking for a good non-fiction, My Dear Maggie is a series of letters written from a settler in Manitoba to his sister who immigrates after him. I read this in 2015, and I still remember him trying to scare her with descriptions of the mosquitos in Manitoba.

Jun 16, 2020, 11:15pm

>49 Bcteagirl: Oh, that sounds good! And, I'm looking for a book written as letters for a challenge to read sometime this year. I'll have to see if my library has it! Thank you!

Editado: Jun 17, 2020, 12:25am

Good luck! My father was able to request a copy in the Sask system, let us know if you can get it!

P’s: I agree with you re: Magical Realism so thanks for the heads up!

Jun 17, 2020, 12:42am

>50 LibraryCin: I enjoyed The Break by Katherena Vermette. It's about indigneous people in Winnipeg, mainly and also Manitoba. I don't recall any magical realism, but it was gritty, but also realistic. Maybe an idea for you?

Jun 17, 2020, 2:05am

>50 LibraryCin: I haven't checked yet. It sounds pretty specialized. I'm in Calgary, and our library system is pretty big, but we'll see. I can also request it if it's somewhere in the province. If not... hmmm... my parents are also in Sask, but to try to plan that for when I'm home to visit or when they are here would be tricky!

Jun 17, 2020, 2:05am

>52 vancouverdeb: Oh, that was one of the Canada Reads books, wasn't it? I may have already added it to the tbr (I'd have to check).

Jun 18, 2020, 1:56am

>54 LibraryCin: Yes, The Break was on quite a few lists, including Canada Reads. I think it was on the Governors Generals Shortlist and a Roger's Finalist. Just click on the link and it will show the prizes it was up for / won.