Today I am sharing 10 different books either set in various parts of Canada or written by Canadian authors.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Eleven-year-old Anne Shirley has never known a real home. Since her parents’ deaths, she’s bounced around to foster homes and orphanages. When she is sent by mistake to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she wants to stay forever. But Anne is not the sturdy boy Matthew and Marilla were expecting. She’s a mischievous, talkative redheaded girl with a fierce temper, who tumbles into one scrape after another. Anne is not like anybody else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special, a girl with an enormous imagination. All she’s ever wanted is to belong somewhere. And the longer she stays at Green Gables, the harder it is for anyone to imagine life without her.
This beloved Canadian classic set in Prince Edward Island is one of my favourite books of all time. Although now considered a children’s book, it’s an enjoyable read for adults as well. If you’re planning a vacation in Prince Edward Island then this should be on your reading list as Anne-related attractions are a huge tourism draw on the island.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
A mystery and a love story spanning five decades, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an epic portrait of passion and ambition, set against the beautiful, brutal landscape of Newfoundland. In this widely acclaimed novel, Johnston has created two of the most memorable characters in recent fiction: Joey Smallwood, who claws his way up from poverty to become Newfoundland’s first premier; and Sheilagh Fielding, who renounces her father’s wealth to become a popular columnist and writer, a gifted satirist who casts a haunting shadow on Smallwood’s life and career.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is an incredible work of historical fiction that takes place during the time period leading up to Newfoundland joining Confederation in 1949.
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
It is 1919, and Niska, the last Oji-Cree woman to live off the land, has received word that one of the two boys she saw off to the Great War has returned. Xavier Bird, her sole living relation, is gravely wounded and addicted to morphine. As Niska slowly paddles her canoe on the three-day journey to bring Xavier home, travelling through the stark but stunning landscape of Northern Ontario, their respective stories emerge – stories of Niska’s life among her kin and of Xavier’s horrifying experiences in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme.
Boyden’s debut novel is partly inspired by Ojibwa Francis Pegahmagabow, the legendary First World War sniper.
Annabel by Kathleen Winter
In 1968, into the devastating, spare atmosphere of the remote coastal town of Labrador, Canada, a child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor fully girl, but both at once. Only three people are privy to the secret – the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbor and midwife, Thomasina. Though Treadway makes the difficult decision to raise the child as a boy named Wayne, the women continue to quietly nurture the boy’s female side. And as Wayne grows into adulthood within the hyper-masculine hunting society of his father, his shadow-self, a girl he thinks of as “Annabel,” is never entirely extinguished.
Winter’s beautiful debut novel about the struggle of an intersex child in a rural Labrador community in the 1960’s growing up and coming to terms with their dual identity was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General”s Award for Fiction.
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright
Underneath the seemingly ordinary lives of Wright”s characters are entire worlds of emotion that, once entered, become wildy unpredictable. Clara Callan has that capacity to surprise, to draw the reader below the smooth surface of convention into a world of passion, where secrets percolate and sudden, unexpected violence erupts. Clara Callan is set in the middle of the Great Depression, chronicling the lives of two sisters. Clara is a spinsterish school teacher whose quiet life in a small Ontario town masks a passion for love and adventure. Nora, her flighty and very pretty sister, travels to New York where she lands a starring role in a radio soap opera.
Clara Callan is a beautiful novel, written in diary and letter form revealing the inner lives of these two ordinary women, which won three major Canadian literary awards – The Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award and the Governor General’s Award.
A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
From some accidents of love and weather we never quite recover. At the worst of the Prairie dust bowl of the 1930s, a young man appears out of a blizzard and forever alters the lives of two sisters. There is the beautiful, fastidious Lucinda, and the tricky and tenacious Norma Joyce, at first a strange, self-possessed child, later a woman who learns something of self-forgiveness and of the redemptive nature of art. Their rivalry sets the stage for all that follows in a narrative spanning over thirty years, beginning in Saskatchewan, and moving, in the decades following the war, to Ottawa and New York City. Disarming, vividly told, unforgettable, this is a story about the mistakes we make that never go away, about how the things we want to keep vanish and the things we want to lose return to haunt us.
A Student of Weather, published in 2000, was Elizabeth Hay’s first novel and a finalist for the Giller Prize.
New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan
It’s 1985. Rachel O’Brien arrives in Little Cove seeking a fresh start after her father dies and her relationship ends. As a new teacher at the local Catholic high school, Rachel chafes against the small community, where everyone seems to know her business. The anonymous notes that keep appearing on her car, telling her to go home, don’t make her feel welcome either. Still, Rachel is quickly drawn into the island’s distinctive music and culture, as well as the lives of her students and fellow teacher, Doug Bishop. As Rachel begins to bond with her students, her feelings for Doug also begin to grow. Rachel tries to ignore her emotions because Doug is in a long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart. Or is he? Eventually, Rachel’s beliefs clash with church and community, and she makes a decision that throws her career into jeopardy. In trying to help a student, has she gone too far? Only the intervention of the ‘Holy Dusters,’ local women who hook rugs and clean the church, can salvage Rachel’s job as well as her chance at a future with Doug.
A charming debut novel about a recent graduate from Toronto who takes her first teaching position in a small fishing village in Newfoundland in 1985. Based in part on the author’s own teaching experiences, this book conveys the culture and warmth of islanders so well that you will want to book the next flight to Newfoundland!
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle-a string of slaves- Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata”s eventual return to Sierra Leone-passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America-is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.
I included this book even though it’s only partially set in Canada because, in my opinion, Lawrence Hill is an incredibly talented Canadian writer and The Book of Negroes is a book that everyone should read.
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
In a moment of self-absorption, Clara Purdy’s life takes a sharp left turn when she crashes into a beat-up car carrying an itinerant family of six. The Gage family had been travelling to a new life in Fort McMurray, but bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer rather than remnants of the accident. Recognizing their need as her responsibility, Clara tries to do the right thing and moves the children, husband, and horrible grandmother into her own house–then has to cope with the consequences of practical goodness. What, exactly, does it mean to be good? When is sacrifice merely selfishness? What do we owe in this life and what do we deserve? Marina Endicott looks at life and death through the compassionate lens of a born novelist: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.
This novel which was shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2008 raises some very interesting questions – great for a book club discussion!
A Recipe for Bees by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
In A Recipe for Bees, Gail Anderson-Dargatz gives readers a remarkable woman to stand beside Hagar Shipley and Daisy Goodwin — but Augusta Olsen also has attitude, a wicked funny bone, and the dubious gift of second sight. At home in Courtenay, B.C., Augusta anxiously awaits news of her dearly loved son-in-law Gabe, who is undergoing brain surgery miles away in Victoria. Her best friend Rose is waiting for Augusta to call as soon as she hears. Through Rose, we begin to learn the story of Augusta”s sometimes harsh, sometimes magical life: the startling vision of her mother”s early death; the loneliness of her marriage to Karl and her battle with Karl”s detestable father, Olaf. We are told of her gentle, platonic affair with a church minister, of her not-so-platonic affair with a man from the town, and the birth of her only child. We also learn of the special affinity between Rose and Augusta, who share the delights and exasperations of old age.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz has written several novels that have been national and international bestsellers and two have been shortlisted for the Giller Prize.
These are just a few of the many amazing books that are either set in Canada or written by Canadian authors. Make sure to check them out.