Cushla's Canadian Challenge
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I expect it'll take me years to finish this one off, but it'll be fun trying.
Back soon with a map and a list of books...
Manitoba: Aleta Day by Francis Marion Beynon
Newfoundland & Labrador:The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston, February by Lisa Moore
Ontario: The Island Walkers by John Bemrose
The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
Prince Edward Island:
create your own personalized map of Canada
This is the only novel that Francis Marion Beynon wrote, and it reads like her autobiography. Aleta Dey grows up in a strict Methodist farming family in Manitoba in the 1890s. She is surrounded by rigidity - her father beats them; her school teachers are shocked when she wonders if God often changes his mind. She has doubts about the English history they're getting taught, but doesn't voice them, unlike her friend Ned who gets expelled for saying that the history books are full of lies - at the time, Canada had troops fighting in the Boer War. After she leaves school, she rejects religion, becomes an active suffragist, and works as a journalist for a pro-suffrage newspaper. Unfortunately, we don't see the development of all this, and leap ahead a few years from school to when she's already working and a suffragist. She falls in love with a conservative journalist called McNair. This story takes up a lot of the book. McNair goes off to France to fight in World War 1, and Aleta Dey becomes more and more opposed to the war.
I enjoyed the first half of the book, about life on the prairies, more than the second. I think if I hadn't just read Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, which was a superb book about WW1, I might have rated this book higher, but felt a bit speechy by the last 50 pages. A good enough read, but I'm not raving about it.
The book was February by Lisa Moore, which I'm sure has had lots of publicity in Canada. It was on the Booker longlist last year and I think I liked it more than The Finkler Question, which won.
In February 1982 the Ocean Ranger, an oil rig, sank off the coast of St John's. All 84 crew members died. February tells the story of Helen, whose husband Cal O'Mara was one of those who died, and her 4 kids. It jumps backwards and forwards from before 1982 to 2008, and I really liked this - it felt like I was slowly seeing more of her life before and after Cal's death. The writing was beautiful, and despite the main subject it wasn't unrelentingly sad. I also thought Lisa Moore captured what it's like to be married and bring up kids really well.