Island: The Complete Stories
by Alistair MacLeod
These stories, beautifully crafted by a prose master, are as fine as any of Chekhov's best. If you enjoy short stories, especially ones so intense and lovely, try MacLeod. MacLeod writes about his native Nova Scotia with deep feeling and love of the landscape. His families, workers, fishermen, sons and fathers, can only be molded out of his own experience. Beautiful descriptions of rural life in Canada. Not a happy book, but one that will leave you shaking your head in wonder at the writing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
"The genius of his stories is to render his fictional world as timeless." – Colm Tóibín
" ... a lesson in the art of storytelling." – Times Literary Supplement
"There are times even now, when I awake at four o'clock in the morning with the terrible fear that I have overslept; when I imagine that my father is waiting for me in the room below the darkened stairs or that the shorebound men are tossing pebbles against my window while blowing their hands and stomping their feet impatiently on the frozen steadfast earth. There are times when I am half out of bed and fumbling for socks and mumbling for words before I realize that I am foolishly alone, that no one waits at the base of the stairs and no boat rides restlessly in the waters by the pier." – Island, W.W. Norton & Company, 2001 edition.
by Louise Penny
Louise Penny is a Canadian author of mystery novels with several books to her name. Still Life is the first of several mysteries, which take place in the Canadian province of Quebec. The mysteries, artfully solved by Chief Inspector Armand Garnache of Quebec, are spellbinding, clever and well written. Many of the novels take place in a small village in Quebec, called Three Pines, but also some are set in Quebec City. Her descriptions of the villages, and the city are detailed, but not boring. Once hooked, you will follow Inspector Garnache through the entire series. These are great books to read while sitting beside a Canadian Lake, or at night in a tent in the wilderness, or for that matter – anywhere. Her books won the Agatha Award for the best mystery novel of the year for four consecutive years.
"It's hard to decide what provides the most pleasure in this enjoyable book. Gamache, a shrewd and kindly man constantly surprised by homicide, the village, which sounds at first like an ideal place to escape from civilization or the clever and carefully constructed plot." – Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune
"Three Pines wasn't on any tourist map, being too far off from any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back." – Still Life, St. Martin's, 2007 edition.
The Stone Carvers
by Jane Urquhart
Although a bit sentimental and implausible at times, The Stone Carvers is still very enjoyable historical fiction. Canadian author Jane Urquhart has a wonderful imagination and her clear prose illuminates the path of a brother and sister during and after World War I. We learn about the breakdown of rural Canada during this time and the loss of so many of the country's young men. If this sounds sad, it is; yet redemption and forgiveness win out in the end.
"A classic ... it does exactly what a novel is supposed to do – captivates, transports and beguiles." – Irish Independent
"A constantly surprising but wholly convincing, complicated, and unified exploration of history, perception, memory and transformation." – The Globe and Mail
"There was a story, a true if slightly embellished story, about how the Ontario village was given its name, its church, its brewery, its tavern, its gardens, its grottoes, its splendid indoor and outdoor altars. How it acquired its hotel, its blacksmith's shop, its streets and roads, its tannery, its cemetery, its general store. This was a legend that appealed to fewer and fewer people in the depression of the early 1930s. Times being what they were, not many villagers had the energy for the present, never mind the past – the tattered rail fences and sagging porches of the previous century seemed to them to be just two more things in need of repair." – The Stone Carvers, Penguin Books, 2003 edition.
by Alice Munro
Award-winning Alice Munro is a Canadian national treasure. Most of the stories, set in western Canada, are universal stories of loneliness, joy, despair, the loosening of familial bonds, disappointments and reconciliations. In other words, Munro touches on all aspects of our human existence. She does this with an ear and eye to the nuances of conversation and action. One comes away from all of her stories with the sense that somehow the great distances in the Canadian landscape match the distances of the human heart.
"Deeply imagined, almost awesome ... Munro's sheer aptness, her precision of psychology and language, becomes the chief beauty of her work." – Washington Post Book World
"(Munro's Stories) are made vivid with innumerable details of time and place. All her characters, even the minor ones, are given histories. And in the end we are witness to eruptions of emotional earthquakes, large and small." – Newsday
"My father has a job, selling for Walker Brothers. This is a firm that sells almost entirely in the country, the back country. Sunshine, Boylesbridge, Turnaround – that is all his territory. Not Dungannon where we used to live, Dungannon is too near town and my mother is grateful for that. He sells cough medicine, iron tonic, corn plasters, laxatives, pills for female disorders, mouthwash, shampoo, liniment, salves, lemon and orange and raspberry concentrate for making refreshing drinks, vanilla, food coloring, black and green tea, ginger, cloves and other spices, rat poison." – Selected Stories, Vintage, 1997 edition.
People of the Deer
by Farley Mowat
Although written in 1947 Farley Mowat's People of the Deer, the first book that made him famous, is still well worth reading. It chronicles his two-year stay with the Ihalmiut people in northern Canada. He lived as the native people lived, enduring the difficult winters, following the caribou herds and learning the self-sustaining ways of these hardy people. Canada has returned a large portion of its northern lands to its native peoples, and this book helped to bring their plight and that of other native peoples to the attention of the world.
"It is not often that a writer finds himself the sole chronicler of a whole human society ... Mowat has done marvelously well at the job." – The New Yorker
"A fascinating, indignant, and beautiful book." – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Emptiness and the terrible space! These were the things which had haunted the imaginations of the few white men who had known the Barrens. And yet, somewhere in the hidden depths of that space there lived – if they still lived – not only the great herds of the deer, but also men … the People of the Deer." – People of the Deer, Da Capo Press, 2002 edition.