MsMoto reads about some of her favourite places
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I've been a fan of Canada and Canadian literature for many years and, considering I'm based in Ireland, I think my shelves are reasonably well-stocked in recent Canadian fiction. Non-fiction will be a slightly tougher challenge, but I'll give it a go. Also, I'm doing a PhD in children's literature, so there may well be quite a few books published for children.
I'll start posting some of my recent reading over the next few days. I've already noticed some of my favourites among others' lists, it'll be fun to talk books with a community of kindred spirits!
I'm starting with...
The Letter Opener by Kyo MacLear.
The setting of this Toronto-based novel appealed to me like no other. The main character, Naiko, works in the Undeliverable Mail Office, the idea of which was received by my imagination like a shot of caffeine. Naiko sorts through orphaned letters and packages and attempts to redirect wayward post to help it reach its ultimate destination. She is joined in her efforts by Andrei, a Romanian refugee, who inexplicably disappears at the beginning of the novel. Naiko then undertakes a quest to combine her knowledge of Andrei’s life, communicated to her in sometimes cryptic snapshots and revelations, with her own version of his story, corrupted by her own history and her continuing efforts to realise her self-identity.
I loved reading this novel. I loved how the text allows space for this reader to sort through the ‘mail’ of the narrative, and how some plot threads were left ‘undeliverable’. There were elements that could have been tighter and some unnecessary layering made certain stories a little cumbersome, but, for a first novel, this impressed me. I’ll be watching out for Kyo MacLear’s future offerings.
The Old Lost Land of Newfoundland: Family, Memory, Fiction, and Myth is the published text of his 2008 Henry Kreisel lecture at the University of Alberta's Canadian Literature Centre. I spend a lot of my time at events like I imagine this one to have been, I can only wish that they were all this entertaining. Even in print, Johnston comes across as an engaging and funny speaker, with pacing and style that belong more to oral storytelling than an academic gathering. His novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, is one of my favourite books. I re-read it every couple of years and was in fact reading it this time last year in preparation for my first visit to Newfoundland. It's always a matter of contented joy to spend more time in the company of Johnston's Smallwood and Sheilagh Fielding. In the same way as The Colony of Unrequited Dreams brings public history to revisionist-life, Johnston's lecture creates an engaging portrait of equally vivid characters, this time his family, and in particular his vocal and ardent anti-confederate father. Johnston tells his family's story in his memoir Baltimore's Mansion and the anecdotes and asides which litter The Old Lost Land of Newfoundland made me want to put that book right on top of my planned reading list. The lecture ends, though, with a passage from The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and, as always, the joy of those words had me reaching for one of my well-loved copies. Baltimore's Mansion may have to wait just a little longer.