Ontario Books

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Ontario Books

Ago 18, 2009, 10:55am

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

Ago 19, 2009, 12:39am

If anyone is looking for a great Ontario read you should try Dionne Brand's What we all Long For. It is set in Tronto, and tells the story of Tuyen. The book starts in Vietnam before Tuyen's birth and it is an amazing story of her struggle to accept not only who she is but who her family really is. I greatly enjoyed it.

Ago 19, 2009, 5:17pm

Fall by Colin McAdam which is set in Ottawa at Ashbury College, although it's not called Ashbury but we all know it is. It was an interesting read, not one I could really recommend however.
On the topic of falling... Falling Under was a debut novel I got multiple copies of for my group. It was ok but did not go over in the grp setting. Wrong demographic completely. Some of the books were returned to me..

Ago 25, 2009, 3:21pm

The Island Walkers by John Bemrose is set in Ontario. I read it earlier this year and loved it. I posted these comments on my 75 BC thread when I finished it:

"The Island Walkers is set in a town in Ontario in the 1960s at whose heart is Bannerman's textile mills. When Bannerman's is sold to Intertex, everyone in the Walker family is affected, especially Alf, the father, but also Margaret, his wife, and their three children. It's a dense read and not an easy one but well worth the effort. Recommended if you like family sagas, Canadian novels, or trade union battles."

Sep 1, 2009, 8:37am

For sci-fi fans, Robert Sawyer's new novel, WWW: Wake is set in Waterloo, Ontario. This is where I live and it was pretty neat to see the local references.

If you're fond of mystery/thriller novels, I'd recommend The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe. It's not bad as a representative of the genre, but its real strengths, in my opinion, are its portrayal of small-town Ontario and the development of the characters.

Sep 3, 2009, 1:18pm

A lot of Margaret Atwood's novels are set in Ontario. I've read - and loved - The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, and Cat's Eye.

As well, Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion is set in Toronto.

Sep 21, 2009, 8:41pm

Giller Prize Longlist: Martha Bailie, The Incident Report; set in Toronto.

Sep 27, 2009, 6:19pm

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam is also set in Toronto and was excellent.

Sep 28, 2009, 1:40pm

Oct 28, 2009, 8:24pm

I have just read two books in a row by Andrew Pyper. He writes really creepy thrillers with fantastic endings. Both The Killing Circle and The Lost Girls are set partially in Toronto and partially in northern towns on the edge of the Canadian Shield. They aren't great literature, but page turners with a strong sense of place.

Dic 2, 2009, 12:12pm

I just realized I hadn't posted to this thread yet (could swear I had). Anyway, my favourite Ontario book is A Map of Glass, by Jane Urquhart. It's set on an island--can't remember where exactly. I also really enjoyed Unless, by Carol Shields, which is set in Toronto, but I can't remember if the setting was crucial to the novel or not--I kinda remember it seeming like "any city".

Editado: Dic 2, 2009, 12:29pm

Nickelini, I think the island in Map of Glass was Wolfe Island, on Lake Ontario, close to Kingston. I didn't read the book, but I remember the talk around town (I live in Kingston) when it was published.

Edited because I think it is said that an island is "on" a lake as opposed to "in" a lake - lol :)

Dic 2, 2009, 2:14pm

If you are a fan of mysteries I can recommend Eric Wright. I got a true sense of place in The Hemingway Caper and plan to read more of his books.

Dic 21, 2009, 10:42pm

There was a really interesting review today on 'Hot Reviews' (by member brenzi) for Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. A Canadian author, the story is about WWI and involves a Cree family. Sounds like a GREAT book!

Dic 30, 2009, 12:48pm

I recently finished The Incident Report, which is set in Toronto. I enjoyed it quite a bit--it was very different.

Ene 4, 2010, 2:18pm

I'm currently reading Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt, which is set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay. I had a think and consulted an atlas and Algonquin Bay is pretty clearly North Bay. In any case, the book is excellent so far.

Ene 28, 2010, 10:01am

Few Ontario books seem to feature Ottawa and I did a bit of searching. Here's a list maintained by the Ottawa Public Library: http://www.biblioottawalibrary.ca/experience/good/spotlights/ottawa_e.html

I had trouble getting to it directly and had to go to the main page, http://www.biblioottawalibrary.ca, and the click on
Spotlight on... (and then)
Books About Ottawa

Feb 6, 2010, 8:35pm

A mystery set in, and written by an attorney living in, Toronto: Old City Hall by Richard Rotenberg. ****

Feb 7, 2010, 6:40pm

Nice review. Sounds like an interesting book.

Feb 7, 2010, 7:38pm

Thanks for the review of Old City Hall. I picked up a copy when I attended a reading that included Robert Rotenberg, Linwood Barclay and John McFetridge. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Abr 16, 2010, 9:42pm

Thanks Michelle for pointing me to this group! Went through what I have read since 2009 to see what I have.. I really enjoyed Clara Callen which is set in Ontario:

Abr 17, 2010, 12:11am

I posted The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan in my own reading topic, but forgot to add it here as an Ontario read. A solid read, especially for fans of historical novels.

Abr 19, 2010, 1:47am

>19 auntmarge64: I just finished Old City Hall and thoroughly enjoyed it - four stars quality. Looking forward to more from Robert Rotenberg. I got side-tracked from my Canadian challenge and hope this means I'm back on track.

And mathgirl40 - how did the reading go?

Abr 19, 2010, 2:51pm

24: I loved Old City Hall and am also looking forward to more from Rotenberg. I was in downtown Toronto recently and made a point of taking a really good look at Old City Hall. I would have loved to go in for a tour but my family had other plans. I'll have to save that for another visit.

Abr 20, 2010, 12:59am

It's been a long time since I've been in Toronto (and I don't foresee any visits in the near future) but I loved the way Rotenberg created an image of the city. And his Stanley Cup playoff result was wonderful!

Abr 20, 2010, 8:21am

26: I'd argue that the Stanley Cup playoff result puts this book in the fantasy genre, not the mystery genre. :)

Abr 21, 2010, 2:25pm

Yes, as I read it I thought "In your dreams!". But then, as an Oilers fan, I have to rely on memories of the glory days. Any opportunity to poke fun at the Leafs is appreciated. :)

Abr 30, 2010, 10:39am

I just finished Cat's Eye. As Cait86 mentioned back in message 6, a lot of Margaret Atwood books are set in Ontario. Most of this one is set in Toronto, and she does not say flattering things about the city. I've only spent a few days there, so I can neither confirm nor deny her accusations ;-)

Mayo 4, 2010, 11:20pm

Oh well now I have to read it *giggle*

Mayo 4, 2010, 11:23pm

Este mensaje ha sido reportado por varios usuarios por lo que no se muestra públicamente. (mostrar)
i was at the skatepark with my friend MR.Fuzzybuthead when he began to crap his pants. after all the crap was out he pulled out a pamper and put it on lolololol

Mayo 5, 2010, 3:33pm

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why was the message deleted thats gay

Mayo 5, 2010, 3:48pm

Este mensaje ha sido reportado por varios usuarios por lo que no se muestra públicamente. (mostrar)
why was the message deleted that is gay

Mayo 5, 2010, 3:48pm

Este mensaje ha sido reportado por varios usuarios por lo que no se muestra públicamente. (mostrar)
why was the message deleted that is gay

Jul 27, 2010, 4:42pm

Chump Change and A perfect Night to go to China are two books that were recently suggested to me. I am done Ontario for now, but thought I would pass on the book names.

Both have summaries on Amazon.

Jul 27, 2010, 7:58pm

Again with the spam? I thought Mr Fuzzybuthead (sic) was done with this place... sigh...

Jul 27, 2010, 9:56pm

35: Haven't read A Perfect Night to go to China but I loved David Gilmour's The Film Club. The story of how he reconnected with his son by watching movies together was really moving.

Ago 3, 2010, 6:50pm

I just finished The Girls by Lori Lansens which is set in a small town in SW Ontario.

Sep 12, 2010, 8:58pm

Just finished The Best Laid Plans set in Ottawa, by Terry Fallis. A funny, entertaining political satire that is too close to the truth.

Oct 7, 2010, 11:09pm

Came across this today, and thought people might be interested as a non-fiction book The Edible City: Toronto's Food from Farm to Fork.
From the publisher's website:
If a city is its people, and its people are what they eat, then shouldn’t food play a larger role in our dialogue about how and where we live? The food of a metropolis is essential to its character. Native plants, proximity to farmland, the locations of supermarkets, immigration, the role chefs can and should play in society - how a city nourishes itself makes a statement about the kind of city it is.

With a cornucopia of essays on comestibles, The Edible City considers how one city eats. It includes dishes on peaches and poverty, on processing plants and public gardens, on rats and bees and bad restaurant service, on schnitzel and school lunches. There are incisive studies of food-security policy, of feeding the needy and of waste, and a happy tale about a hardy fig tree.

Together they form a saucy picture of how Toronto – and, by extension, every city – sustains itself, from growing basil on balconies to four-star restaurants. Dig into The Edible City and get the whole story, from field to fork.

Editado: Oct 9, 2010, 1:54pm

I just finished Sanctuary Line, which is Jane Urquhart's latest. It's a lovely novel set in the very southwest reaches of Canada, on the shore of Lake Erie. It has a strong sense of place and tons of atmosphere.

Edited to say that as someone born and bred in BC, it's very odd to say that southwest Canada is in Ontario. To me southwest Canada is Victoria. But technically, our southern point is in Ontario, and it's at the same latitude as Northern California. So I guess I should have said the most southern reach of Canada. As a westerner, Ontario will never be west to me.

Oct 9, 2010, 7:18pm

Heehee... and as someone born in Sask, Ontario is definitely not 'central' Canada either ;)

Ene 19, 2011, 4:13am

Creaking open the thread to add a new book. Touchstones do not seem to be working for this book.
Sweetgrass and Motorcycles by Drew Hayden Taylor takes place in Ontario. I'm only about 50 in, but it looks like a fabulous read so far. It was a GG 2010 finalist.

Ene 19, 2011, 10:31am

43 - I just returned that to the library unread because I just didn't have time to read it over Christmas. Let me know how it goes once you are finished and maybe I will add it back on the ever-growing library list :)

Ene 19, 2011, 4:54pm

Will do, Danielle. I'm about 100 pages in and LOVING it! I know what you mean about how busy one gets over Christmas - and also getting books back to the library.

Mayo 3, 2011, 5:54pm

Just finished Helpless, by Barbara Gowdy, which I think has been mentioned. Just wanted to say it was worth reading and a good choice for someone looking for a book that has a strong sense of Toronto.

Nov 16, 2017, 9:42pm

I see it's been a long time since this thread was active and I must confess that I've read lots of books set in Ontario that I haven't added. I thought I would mention my latest read Bellevue Square since it really evokes Toronto not just as a setting but almost as a character.

Oct 10, 2018, 6:00pm

I'll add another Ontario book that I just read although it was published in 1994. Keeper N' Me was Richard Wagamese's first novel and it is set on a reserve in northwest Ontario. It is roughly autobiographical in that the main character was taken from his family and the reservation when he was just an infant by the Children's Aid Society. This is what happened to Richard and he didn't return to his birthplace and his family until he was in his twenties. I have read Richard's actual autobiography One Native Life and I prefer it but this fictionalized version maybe explains more about native spirituality and tradition.

Nov 15, 2018, 5:44pm

Another Ontario book about indigenous issues that should be on this list is Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga. Talaga chronicles the deaths of seven indigenous teenagers while they were attending high school in Thunder Bay in the first decade of the 21st century. All of the deaths were unusual and yet the local police force dismissed them all as being of no concern. It is pretty clear that the racism and violence against indigenous people still exists.

Feb 4, 2019, 3:29pm

I just finished reading Brother by David Chariandy as it is one of the five finalists for Canada Reads 2019. It seems like a good contender although I was not completely won over by it. It is the story of two young black brothers growing up in a housing project in Scarborough.

Jul 23, 2019, 1:15am

The Blue Castle / L.M. Montgomery
4 stars

Valancy is turning 29 years old and is constantly reminded by her family that she is an old maid. She has always been a good, obedient daughter, but hates pretty much everything about her life with her family. She even wears only clothes her mother approves of and an old-fashioned hairstyle approved by her mother. When she receives some news, she finally stands up to her family and does things that she wants to do, just for herself.

I really liked this. I liked Valency, though I hated her awful family. I liked some of the other characters, as Valency gets to know them after her rebellion from her family. It’s frustrating, the lack of options for an unmarried woman during this time (the 1920s). It’s slow-moving, but I really enjoyed it.

Sep 6, 2019, 10:03pm

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes / Kamal Al-Solaylee
4 stars

The author was born in Yemen in the 1960s. He was the youngest of 11 siblings and was only 3 years old when the family moved to Beirut (Lebanon), then not long after, they moved to Cairo (Egypt), where he spent his years growing up, and figuring out that he was gay. Most of the family eventually headed back to Yemen, but long before then, Kamal knew he had to get out of the Middle East. He yearned to go to England or the US, where he felt he would be able to be himself and not hide. He managed a scholarship to study in England, and from there, he eventually made his way to Canada.

This covered the 1960s (when the people of Yemen and Egypt were relatively free and not so constrained by religion) up to and including 2011. As Kamal yearned to leave, he hated to leave his mother and sisters behind, the way women were being treated by the time he got out. Some of his brothers had gone fervently religious, too much for Kamal’s liking. He tried to not look back on his life there, and even speaking to his family was difficult, as he was still hiding who he really was and it reminded him of how bad things were in the country he was born in. As things got worse in the Middle East, and in Yemen in particular with a civil war happening in 2011, he did seek out news from home.

This was really good. It was also very interesting, to read the cultural differences between the Middle Eastern countries he lived in and the Western countries. As a Canadian myself, it was really nice to see how accepted he was in Canada (Toronto, though I am from the West), regardless of his nationality and his sexual orientation. Completely not book-related, but as someone who has taken bellydance classes off and on, I had to take a brief break from reading to look up a famous Egyptian bellydancer his father hired to perform at one of his sisters’ weddings.

Dic 30, 2019, 2:09am

The Forgotten Home Child / Genevieve Graham
4 stars

When Winny is young, she finds herself in the streets of London and finds friends in Mary, Jack, Cecil and Edward. They are caught stealing one day and are taken to an orphanage. From there, they eventually are sent to Canada, where they will be sent out to families and should have a better life. They are split up, but vow to find each other again.

Apparently, between the mid-1800s and up to 1948(?) over 100,000 children – the British Home Children – were sent to Canada. Sadly, for the majority of these kids, it was not a better life. Many (most) were neglected, malnourished, abused. They were indentured servants and most were not treated well.

In the book, Winny is actually 90-some years old, and having been ashamed of her background all these years, she never told her family. But, the book goes back and forth between Winny telling her granddaughter and great-grandson her story and, of course, the story itself: Winny and her friends in the 1930s and through WWII.

This was very interesting. I had never heard of the British Home Children, and that’s why the author wanted to write the story. It’s not taught in schools, and many of the kids sent over kept their stories to themselves, so it’s not well-known. The author includes a good historical note at the end. The author used examples from many of the people she talked to – things that really happened. It was a quick read, but I hope I don’t forget it soon.

Ene 4, 2020, 9:52pm

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan is set in Scarborough mostly. A man was found dead at the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs and the federal Department of Justice wants to know if he committed suicide, fell accidentally or was pushed. Their interest stems from the fact that he may have been involved in war crimes in Bosnia and came to Canada under an alias and false identification.

Ene 5, 2020, 1:11am

>54 gypsysmom: Sounds interesting! Is it fiction or nonfiction? Thanks!

Ene 5, 2020, 8:44pm

>55 LibraryCin: It is fiction but there is a ton of information about the genocide of the Muslims in Bosnia. I sort of missed out on reading much on the war due to personal issues at the time so this was more than a refresher for me.

Ene 5, 2020, 11:40pm

>56 gypsysmom: Thank you!

Feb 21, 2020, 6:04pm

I just finished listening to a really interesting audiobook set in Northwest Ontario, The Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice which was read by Billy Merasty. This was an unusual story from an indigenous writer that I was not familiar with. Some CBC radio listeners may know his name because he hosts a radio program from Sudbury. The story is set on a fictional reserve in Northwest Ontario after a power and communications blackout has put the reserve into conditions that existed 50 to 100 years before. At first the band is able to provide power and water by using their backup generators but eventually the diesel to run them is used up. No help is coming to them from the outside world because everywhere has been hit with the same blackout. And did I mention that it's winter? A very long cold and snowy winter that makes life even more difficult. What will happen to the band members when food becomes scarce? Rice has an interesting answer to that question.

Ago 5, 2020, 9:59am

Juliana and the Medicine Fish by Jake MacDonald is set mostly in Northwest Ontario, specifically in the Lake of the Woods area. It is a YA novel but this far from young reader enjoyed the story. It's about a young girl's attempt to catch a trophy fish with the hopes that the prize money will help keep the family fishing lodge afloat financially. I've never fished in my life but I enjoyed the information about fishing and lures and different methods and I also thought the ending was just right.

Dic 2, 2020, 11:58pm

The Quintland Sisters / Shelley Wood
3.75 stars

The Dionne quintuplets were born in a small town in Northern Ontario in 1934. It was amazing that they all lived. However, not long after they were born, they were taken from the parents to live across the street in a building built to keep them safe and healthy. 17-year old Emma was there when they were born to help the midwife. She becomes a nurse and is one of a revolving door of nurses and teachers (in addition to Dr. Dafoe and others) to help take care of the girls. They’ve immediately become sensations, being so rare. People come from all over to see the girls in their purpose-built play room, so the girls are visible to outsiders, but the visitors aren’t visible to the girls.

The story is told in diary form from Emma’s point of view up until the girls are 5-years old. It is interspersed with real newspaper articles. It’s a sad story, as the parents rarely had access to see their daughters. Since this is fiction, I don’t really know what the parents were like, but I waffled between feeling bad for them and really not liking them, as they were very strict and the father seemed more interested in the money and control of the girls’ lives.

I did appreciate the historical note. Emma was, as I’d suspected, not a real person. I was surprised at the end, but she did put a bit into the historical note that might help explain. I definitely want to find and read some nonfiction on the Dionne quintuplets.

Dic 24, 2020, 12:33am

From the Ashes / Jesse Thistle
4 stars

Jesse and his two older brothers (Metis-Cree) were abandoned by their parents when Jesse was only 3-years old (older brothers Jerry and Josh were 4 and 5). They spent a short time in a foster home before their paternal grandparents in Ontario came to get them. Jesse did not do well growing up – he got into trouble with alcohol and drugs, stealing, and he was off-and-on homeless. He was in and out of jail a few times before he eventually turned his life around.

This was really good. Jesse also writes poetry and it is sprinkled throughout the book. The chapters are short and overall, the book is fairly quick to read. So many times I shook my head, and thought: ok, this has to be rock-bottom, when you’ll turn your life around. But it wasn’t. So many times. I also wondered occasionally how he remembered as much as he did looking back on his life, given all the drugs and alcohol, but he addressed this in a note at the end.