What’s Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

As always I’m a day late and a dollar short when it comes to reviewing books, this one was published in 2010 and I just found it. I would venture to say this will be my FAVORITE book of the year!

I ‘read’ the audio version read by Bronson Pinchot. He’s the actor who played Balki Bartokomous in the TV series Perfect Strangers. Remember that show and the silly character of Balki and his funny voice? I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed this narrator was one and the same! Excellent job, he was Wyatt Hillyer.

Set in Nova Scotia during WWII, this is a story about a love triangle involving a German student and narrated by the main character, Wyatt. He is writing a letter to his daughter, Marlais, whom he hasn’t seen since she was very small. He had read or heard the phrase ‘What is left the daughter’ and it started him thinking about what would be left his daughter. He wanted her to have the details and truth of his life as he had nothing else to give her.

He begins the letter in 1941, the day both his parents jumped to their deaths from different bridges in Halifax within minutes of each other. Wyatt was 17. He goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Middle Economy, a small town in Nova Scotia. Here he becomes an apprentice sled/toboggan maker to his uncle and falls madly in love with his adopted cousin Tilda.

Being set during WWII and involves the sinking of a Canadian passenger ferry, Caribou, by German U boats, (an actual event) this story is both tragic and comedic at the same time. It’s a look at the fear and folly of judging people by association. Of how war and tragedy can make a human capable of things he might otherwise never consider doing. How a split second decision changes lives. The wonderfully quirky characters, sharp dialogue and wit bring a lightness to this tragic tale.

I loved the quirky details brought to this story,

  • Tilda being a professional mourner, something common during this period of history,
  • that she found meaning for life through a book called The Highland Book of Platitudes (a real book published privately in Scotland around 1900),
  • vintage radios, Wyatts mom collected them and had 58. His uncle Donald listened incessantly to the radio for war bulletins,
  • Hans being a philatelist and the importance put on words,
  • Wyatt ending up being a detritus gaffer in the Halifax harbour (pulling garbage from human tragedy like sinking ferries from the waters of the harbour with a big gaffing hook.)
  • The details of dates and times and places.

Was there anything I didn’t like about this book? Not a thing!

‘Reading’ this on audio was like sitting and listening to Wyatt read his letter to me. I loved it. This was my first book by Howard Norman and I think he will become one of my favorite authors. Sadly I had one of his books, The Museum Guard, on my shelf for several years and never read it. It made it through several clearing off of the shelves and last time got sent to the library book sale unread! Pooh! I’ve ordered The Bird Artist by Norman from Paperbackswap and can’t wait to read it!

You can read an excerpt here.

Peggy Ann

Have you read What is Left the Daughter? Or any other book by Norman? What did you think?

The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

 

from back cover:
Two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn, are the sons of a farmer in the mid-1930s, when life is tough and another world war is looming. Arthur is reticent, solid, dutiful and set to inherit the farm and his father’s character; Jake is younger, attractive, mercurial and dangerous to know – the family misfit. When a beautiful young woman comes into the community, the fragile balance of sibling rivalry tips over the edge.

Flash forward twenty years. It is now the 1950’s. Ian Christopherson, the naive and idealistic son of the local doctor, takes a summer job on the farm. Long obsessed with Arthur’s wife, Ian is like a fuse waiting to ignite the powder keg of emotions around him.

These two generations in the small town of Struan are tragically linked by fate and community but separated by a war that devours its young men-its unimaginable horror reaching right into the heart of this remote corner of an empire. Taut with apprehension, yet surprising us with moments of tenderness and humor, The Other side of the Bridge is a compelling, humane, and vividly evoked novel with an irresistible emotional undertow.

I picked this up at a library book sale and am I glad I did! I thought it would just be a book to count towards the Canadian Book Challenge (don’t think I’m going to make it to the 13 needed!) and ended up absolutely loving this book! I can’t wait to read the others by Mary Lawson.

The story is told in alternating chapters. Two distinct stories in their own right, running together and intersecting. The story of Arthur Dunn and his brother Jake growing up in the 1930’s and Ian Christopherson’s story of coming to age in a small northern town in the 50’s. Ian and Arthur are the tie that bind the stories together. Slowly and gently taking us through the lives of these two men and building to the inescapable explosion between brothers.

I like stories about family struggles, we all have them don’t we? I love looking at the dynamic of relationships. This book hit home for me in two ways, Arthur has a ‘co-dependent’ relationship with his mother. He felt responsible for her happiness. Somewhere along the lines in their lives she sent that message to him. I had the same dynamic in my relationship with my mom. So I could identify with Arthur. There was Jake the brother whom the mom treated with kid gloves, I have a handicap brother. Same dynamic. With Ian one of his parents abandons the family and he has to learn to come to terms with that. My dad left us when I was a teenager.

The setting is really far north in Ontario Canada, small town life, farm life. Ms. Lawson puts you right there in that bitter cold winter. Pulls at your heartstrings when a horse gets sick in the middle of a blizzard, they can’t get to the vet. Ian has a Native Indian best friend from the reservation and we see the tensions between the Indians and the white man.Throw in World War II and the hardships and the terrible loss.

I loved Arthur and as much as you want to dislike Jake you have to wonder why? Why does he do the things he does? The dynamics between the brothers really is the crux of the story and it is a very well told one. I’m very glad she decided to tell this story from Arthur’s point of view instead of Jake’s. Their dad was a silent man and even though he doesn’t say much, I think his relationship with each of the boys speaks volumes. I can’t recommend this enough if you like family dramas!

Mary wrote three books set in this area. Crow Lake is the first then The Other Side of the Bridge and third is Road Ends set in Struan and brings back a couple characters from Crow Lake.

Quotes:
‘There had been many times in the past when Arthur had wanted to give Jake a bloody nose, but never more than this time. He fantasized about it for days – saw his fist make contact, the lovely rich blood running down – but whenever and however he pictured it, his mother’s face slid into the frame as well: the horror in her eyes, her bitter disappointment in him. So he didn’t do it.’

‘Arthur didn’t hate his brother, or not very often. Mostly he just didn’t understand hm. How did they get to be in the same family? What did Jake want? Because Arthur definitely go the feeling Jake wanted something; you could see it sometime: there was a fretfulness, a frustration – something indefinable behind the eyes.’

You can read about this author HERE
and watch an interview of her on the writing of this book HERE

Have you read this? What did you think?

This post is linked to Canadian Book Challenge over @Book Mine Set

Peggy Ann

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery Vol. I: 1889-1910

This book is a joy to read! Especially if your a Montgomery fan. It might not be one you sit down and read cover to cover, just pick up off and on and visit Lucy’s life. She began journal-ling just shy of her 15th birthday and wrote until shortly before her death. Her son Dr. E. Stuart Macdonald gave them to the University of Guelph in 1981, not to be published until 1992. There are 5 volumes.

Volume I  takes us from the age of almost 15 to one year before her marriage. Her mother died when she was just 21 months old; shortly afterwards her father went west, where he remarried and stayed. Lucy was raised by her maternal grandparents in Cavendish. This volume recounts her school days, her romantic ‘crushes’ that found their way into her fiction, a year in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, with her father and stepmother, a year of study at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown and another at Dalhousie University. Also her teaching years, a powerful infatuation with the son of a family she lived with, a long and mostly unhappy period of keeping house for her grandmother and the publication of Anne of Green Gables at the age of 34.

Any devotee of Anne will be fascinated with this journal. The writing style is the same and we get a glimpse into the mind of Anne as so many of the incidents in the book are typical Anne! There are lots of pictures, several maps, a family chart and a wonderful introduction. We get a unique social history, personal look at the history of Canada and a wonderful view into a most delightful and remarkable woman. I am looking forward to reading the other 4 journals too!

Quotes:

Sunday, Sept. 22, 1889
Cavendish, P.E. Island, Can.
From sheer force of habit I was just going to write ‘a dark cold day with frequent sowers of rain.’
But I won’t!
Last night Pensie came up and asked me to go down and stay all night with her. Pensie Macneill – almost everybody in Cavendish who isn’t a Simpson is a Macneill and mostly they are both – is a girl who lives about a mile from here and is my second cousin. She is a good bit older than me-she is nearly eighteen-but we have always been great chums. It is fine fun to go down there to stay all night. We’ve had some dandy old times together-coasting and berrying and picking gum and going to the shore and playing with the cats in the barns.
Today we came up to church together and after dinner we went to Miss Clemmie Macneill’s funeral.

Friday, June 26, 1891
Prince Albert
After dinner I took a jug and went away out to the east flats to pick berries. I was away two hours and had such a lovely time. It was clear and cool and I was all alone among the sweet grasses and leaves, with the birds singing in the poplars. At such time the charm of this north land comes home to me and I felt that I could have loved it and been contented here if Mrs. Montgomery (her step mom) had been a different woman.
Mustard did another of his queer things today. He called in the afternoon and asked for me. I squirmed darkly into the parlor and he gave me my set of bookkeeping books he had brought from the high school. then, as he rose to go, he asked me if I’d be in tonight. As I was expecting to go up to Mrs. McTaggart’s I said ‘no’.
“Tomorrow night then?” he insisted.
As I had unfortunately no engagement on hand I had to say yes.
“May I come and see you? he asked.
Now, considering the fact that he has been coming here two and three times a week all winter, to see me-or papa?- without troubling himself about the formality of asking if he might, this question struck me as unique.
“If you wish to, Mr. Mustard,” I said ungraciously. He turned a shade or two redder and showed himself out. I felt like a perfect fool. Oh, I’m mortally afraid he’s going to say something yet.

Saturday, June 20, 1908
Cavendish, P.E.I.
Today has been, as Anne herself would say ‘an epoch in my life’. My book came today, fresh from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was for me a proud, wonderful, thrilling moment! There in my hand lay the material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions and struggles of  my whole conscious existence-my first book! Not a great book at all-but mine, mine, mine,- something to which I had given birth-something which, but for me, would never have existed. As far as appearance goes the book is all I could desire – lovely cover design, well bound, well printed. Anne will not fail for lack of suitable garbing at all events.
On the dedication page was the inscription ‘To the Memory of my father and mother’. Oh, if they were but living to be glad and proud. When I think of how father’s eyes would have shone!

and one more…
Thursday, Jan. 6, 1910
Cavendish, P.E.I
…I finished and sent off the MS of Kilmeny last week. I miss it for I cannot settle down to any work which requires concentrated thought. Kilmeny did not. I had merely to copy and amplify existing thoughts. I am making very poor progress with The Story Girl. The hours are rare when I am in a mood for creative work and I do not wish to spoil it by working at it when I cannot do my conception of it justice.
Tonight I feel that life is too hard  that I cannot endure it any longer.

At the end of the book there are notes broken down by year to explain many persons, places and things such as…

1890
September 1 MR. MUSTARD. John Alexander Mustard, from Scott Township, Ontario, a former schoolmate of LMM’s stepmother, had graduated from the University of Toronto (B.A.) in 1889

Just search The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery to find them.

This book counts toward the 6th Annual Canadian Book Challenge @ The Book Mine Set

Peggy Ann

 

Rayton: A Backwoods Mystery by Theodore Goodridge Roberts

 

This 1912 Canadian mystery novel is set among lakes and forest where the sporting life is enjoyed by both the settlers and the wealthy sportsmen who regularly come north for the salmon fishing.

Marked cards!

There is no murder in this mystery. The mystery is a family curse, on it’s third generation. While playing cards one of the gentlemen is dealt a card with a mark on it. Two red crosses. Jim Harley gets very upset about this. We find out that his grandfather and his father have both had this same thing happen to them before they married his grandmother and mother and terrible things began happening to the men who loved those women ending with his grandfather and father’s deaths. Jim’s sister, Nell, a stunning beauty like her mother and grandmother is single and Davy Marsh is crazy about Nell and he gets the crosses on a card. Jim wants Davy to leave the settlement to save his life. The men think it is silliness and someone in the group is having a good time at their expense. But when Davy almost drowns in a canoe accident and his hunting camp burns to the ground, some of them aren’t quite sure. 

Davy Marsh

Reginald Rayton is the easy going Englishman, new to the settlement and Jim Harley’s best friend. Rayton is in love with Nell too, as are most of the single men in the settlement! He is determined to get to the bottom of this silly curse. Enter Mr. Banks, a wealthy New York businessman who came for a hunting trip with Davy Marsh. Due to Davy’s string of bad luck the hunting trip is off and Rayton offers Mr. Banks a place to stay and takes him hunting. Mr. Banks and Rayton become fast friends and after another game of cards, more red crosses, this time on Rayton’s cards. Rayton is shot in the shoulder while hunting in the woods and nearly dies! Now Mr Banks get down to the serious business of finding the truth!

Nell and Rayton after he is shot

Who could it be, Dr. Nash, Capt. Wigmore or his strange sidekick, the young trapper and guide Dick Goodine? Or is there really a curse? Who will win Nell’s hand? and will they end up in the grave for having won it?

This was a little slow moving, but I was drawn in and had to plod along and find out who or what was up with those red crosses and who would win Nell. I was glad I did at the end. It had a very exciting ending with a nice little twist. There were nice descriptions of the backwoods country and animals and fun old timey language like “Well, it beats me to a standstill.” and ‘But, jumpin’ Moses, I must think somethin’.” Attractive pencil drawings through out. All in all it was a nice story and I would read more by this author.

You can get this in ebook format free @ Project Gutenberg w/illustrations!
for Nook @ Barnes & Noble
in paperback @ Amazon 
or read it online @ Google Books
Two other titles by this author are available free @ Many Books
 
This author will work for you if you are doing the Canadian Book Challenge over @ Book Mine! 

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Still Life by Louise Penny


I’m a little late getting on the Inspector Gamache bandwagon. I just read my first Louise Penny book and I started with the first one in the series. I wasn’t too sure about it at first, but it kept calling to me from the table to pick it back up and I ended up really liking it. I like Gamache and his partner Beauvoir. They have a real affection for each other and make a great team. The ‘new’ girl on the team, trainee Yvette Nichol, on the other hand is a terrible character. I was so happy when he told her to go home! Alas, I have been told she is back in subsequent books:(

The village residents really didn’t do much to warm my heart in the beginning, as a matter of fact I thought ‘am I going to like any of them, other than the dead woman?’ But as they developed I really did like them even bitter old Ruth!

I thought the murder was a really interesting murder and Louise did a nice job of giving you reason to suspect everybody. I changed my mind several times right up until the very end. Good book, I’ll moving on to book 2 soon!

From the book…
‘Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all around. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless you’re of the belief everything happens as it’s suppose to. If so, for her 76 years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of The Three Pines. She’d fallen spread eagle, as though making snow angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec knelt down; his knees cracking like the report of a hunter’s rifle, his large, expressive hands hovered over the tiny circle of blood marring her fluffy cardigan, as though like a magician he could remove the wound and restore the woman. But he could not. That wasn’t his gift. Fortunately for Gamache he had others.’

This book counts toward the 6th Canadian Book Challenge and is linked up with the November Roundup over at The Book Mine

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Beautiful Joe by Margaret Marshall Saunders

This is a lovely children’s classic written in 1893 by Canadian author Margaret Marshall Saunders. It is based on a true story and told in the first person from Joe, the dog’s, point of view. I picked up my copy in a gift shop on vacation in Nova Scotia some years back.

from the back cover:
Beautiful Joe, a mongrel dog, was cruelly mutilated by his maser and through pure good fortune was brought to the Morrisses – to Miss Laura – who nursed him back to health. This tale of tender devotion between a dog and his owners is a timeless classic that brought Halifax writer Margaret Marshall Saunders much acclaim. At the time of her death in 1947 she was described as ‘Canada’s Most Revered Writer.’

This profoundly touching narrative, told by Beautiful Joe himself, has promoted interest in the humane treatment of animals. It also brings to light issues about farming and farm animals that are as timely today as they were more than a century ago when Saunders wrote this book.

I did enjoy this lovely story and fell in love with Joe. It was a little preachy, but the love story between Joe and the family, especially Laura, was very touching. It really made a statement about animal abuse in all forms. It is a wonderful book for children and I am looking forward to reading it to my grandkids. The Morris kids are always bringing home injured animals to nurse to health, Davy the rat, Malta the cat, Billy another dog, and there are birds too. It is a great conversation starter with your kids about treating animals with dignity and respect as they are God’s creation too. Although it is a little gory with the details as Joe is being abused in the beginning, but it opens your eyes to the severity of the issue.

A few quotes from the book…

“This one, pointing to me, ‘might be held up as an example to many a human being. He is patient, quiet, and obedient. My husband says that he reminds him of three words in the Bible- ‘through much tribulation.'”
  “Why does he say that? asked Mrs. Montaue, curiously.
  “Because he came to us from a very unhappy home.” And Mrs. Morris went on to tell her friend what she knew of my early days.
When she stopped, Mrs. Montague’s face was shocked and pained.

Two days later … ‘Mrs. Montague’s son Charlie came to the house, he brought something for me done up in a white paper. Mrs. Morris opened it and there was a handsome, nickel-plated collar, with  my name it – Beautiful Joe. Wasn’t I pleased! They took off the little shabby leather strap that the boys had given me when i came, and fastened on my new collar, and then Mrs. Morris held me up to a looking glass to look at my self. I felt so happy. Up to this time I had felt a little ashamed of my cropped ears and docked tail, but now that I had a fine new collar I could hold up my head with any dog.’

And speaking of abuse of birds for their plumage…

“I am sorry to tell you such painful things, but I think you ought to know them. You will soon be men and women. Do what you can to stop this horrid trade. Our beautiful birds are being taken from us, and the insect pests are increasing. The State of Massachusetts has lost over one hundred thousand dollars because it did not protect its birds. The gypsy moth stripped the trees near Boston and the State had to pay out all this money, and even then could not get rid of the moths. The birds could have done it better than the State, but they were all gone. My last words to you are, ‘Protect the birds.'”

There is lots of great conversation between the animals also!

The real Joe was an Airedale-type dog, brown and medium in size. His owner abused him to almost the point of death even cutting off his ears and tail. Ms. Saunders sister-in-law’s father had rescued him in 1890. Ms. Saunders learned of Joe in 1892 and wrote the full length novel in 1893. She changed the family’s name and the setting of the story to Maine, USA to enter it in a contest being run by the American Humane Society. It won and was published in 1894. It was the first Canadian book to sell over 1 million copies and by 1939 had sold over 7 million worldwide. In 1902 a sequel , Beautiful Joe’s Paradise, was published.

There is a lovely historical plaque in Ontario for Beautiful Joe, see it here.

In 1994 The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed to honor the life and story of Joe and the literary and humane achievements of Ms. Saunders.

You can purchase a book format of this book (new or used) in many places online, including thru the Heritage Society or download a free ebook format at Project Gutenberg here.

1861-1947

Ms. Saunders was born in Milton, Nova Scotia, though she spent most of her childhood in Berwick, Nova Scotia where her father was a Baptist minister.

Bibliography for Ms. Saunders…

  • My Spanish Sailor (1889)
  • Beautiful Joe (1893)
  • Charles and His Lamb (1895)
  • For the Other Boy’s Sake, and Other Stories (1896)
  • The House of Armour (1897)
  • The King of the Park (1897)
  • Deficient Saints (1899)
  • For His Country (1900)
  • Her Sailor (1900)
  • Tilda Jane, An Orphan In Search of a Home (1901)
  • Beautiful Joe’s Paradise (1902)
  • Nita, the Story of an Irish Setter (1904)
  • The Story of Gravelys (1904)
  • Princess Sukey; The Story of a Pigeon and Her Human Friends (1905)
  • The Story of an Eskimo Dog (1906)
  • My Pets (1908)
  • Tilda Jane’s Orphans (1909)
  • The Girl from Vermont (1910)
  • Pussy Black-Face (1913)
  • Boy, the Wandering Dog (1916)
  • Golden Dicky (1919)
  • Bonnie Prince Fetlar (1920)
  • Jimmy Gold-Coast (1924)
  • Esther de Warren (1927)

This book is 1/13 in my Canadian Book Challenge! Check it out at The Book Mine Set