Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Lost in September: I predict a Giller nominee.

One of the skills I developed during my undergraduate degree was finding connections among the books I was reading for different courses. I’d hear about an idea in one course and take that idea and put it to work in another; or I’d notice themes from one novel resonating in another course that might be distant in time or geography. I’m not sure whether this cross-reading was intention on the part of the program (I’m pretty sure not) but the consequence was that I took personal pleasure in finding these moments of connection or overlap. I’d probably have made for an excellent thematic critic. Alas. I raise all of this because even now with the combination of my terrible memory and my appetite for reading I often find myself midway into a book and certain I’ve recently read something similar, or surprised that everyone seems to be writing about X topic (which probably owes more to how I select what I read than the novels themselves…). Continue reading

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prize Winner

News of the World: Why Reading the News is Brave

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I went on a book requesting spree at the end of the year when the ‘best of’ lists came out and then promptly forgot what I had requested. As a consequence I get near weekly notifications from the library that such-and-such book is waiting for me. And each time I swear I’ve never heard of the book. But off I go and pick it up and begin to read – confident in late 2016 Erin who must have had some inkling that this unknown novel was of some worth.  Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, National Book Award, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Kindred: The Time Travelling Slave Narrative You Hoped Wouldn’t Be So… 2016.

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You read a book like Octavia Butler’s Kindred and you get to thinking some bleak thoughts. Published in the 1970s, the ‘fantasy’ novel follows Dana through a time travelling slave narrative. Opening in the 1970s the reader is immediately hooked as Dana travels back in time to the pre-civil war South and finds herself – a black woman – among slavery. The mechanics of time travel in the novel are explained by virtue of the ‘kindred’ connection between Dana and her 1800something ancestor, Rufus: Dana is called back to the past each time Rufus is in danger of dying so that she can save his life; Dana is called back to the present each time her own life is in danger. Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Do Not Say We Have Nothing: You Probably Know More About Everything Than Me. 

I can’t remember how I first came across Madeline Thien. It was almost certainly in the context of a literature class, and probably the responsibility of L. or D. teaching me Canadian literature. The origins don’t matter so much as knowing that I associate Thien with beautiful writing and themes of family, place and home. So when mutliple folks recommended her new book Do Not Say We Have Nothing I was primed to appreciate it. I say ‘appreciate,’ but I could have also said ‘enjoy,’ or ‘marvel,’ or ‘revel.’ It’s a book that takes for granted that its reader will want and appreciate depth in theme and exquisite beauty in writing. It is not for the lazy reader, and doesn’t assume that such readers exist.  Continue reading

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Filed under Book Club, Canadian Literature, Fiction, Giller prize, Historical Fiction, Prize Winner, Reader Request