The Canadian Book Challenge – Newfoundland

This will be my last post for this first Canadian Book Challenge, I’m a little disappointed because I didn’t all thirteen books read for the challenge. I know this disappointment is irrational since I started this challenge rather late (January 27th) and this is book number eight that I’ve read for the challenge and I know I’m not going to get any others read for this challenge. I’m glad I got as much done as I did I just wish I could have finished the challenge. I still plan to read these books at some point, I actually think I’ll be moving the Anne of Green Gables book to the Classics Challenge. Some of these unfinished books may make it onto my list for the second round of the Canadian Book Challenge, but we’ll see how I decide to approach the second round of the challenge.

Anyway with that all out of the way I’ll now tell you about the book I read for Newfoundland. Nagerira by Paul Butler was a book that I stumbled upon at What the Book?, I didn’t think I would find a book from this particular province. I was even more surprised that this was a signed copy of the book, I’m a sucker for signed copies. After reading the back of the book I was drawn to the book and looked forward to reading Nigeria.

This book ended up starting out really good, I enjoyed the beginning of the book and I should say that I enjoyed more than the beginning of the book. There was one issue that I had with the book that almost made me put the book down but I pushed through it.

Paul Buttler’s novel is two stories in one, the stories converge in the novel right from the first page. The story is of Sheila, a hag that lives in the woods on the outskirts of a village in the new world. He life is in extreme turmoil again. The other story is of a young Sheila, the struggle she had to overcome after her mother remarried. The stories have an element of mystery and the supernatural. This isn’t the type of story that I typically read but I thought I would give it a shot. I’m glad I did, even thought it’s not a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The part of the story I had troubles enjoying was the part when Sheila was put in prison by her mother and step-father because she had an “imaginary friend” that was a spirit that dwelt in the woods. Now that may not sound like something to be so worked up about but that’s not really what bothered me. What really bothered me was the companion that Sheila had to spend time with in prison. The prisoner wasn’t a hardened criminal or anything like that. Her companion was thrown in prison because of his writing. First issue was that a child was put into a room and locked in there with a grown man. The second point I took issue with was that the man she had to be imprisoned with was a little know man Bill Shakespeare. Now if I was to be thrown in prison I would love to spend my time with someone like Shakespeare but the he never spent time in prison (to my knowledge) and when dealing with a historical figure I think that you shouldn’t alter history just to make a story interesting.

This idea of playing with historical figures in writing has probably been debated time and time again and I don’t want to get into it too much. I enjoy historical fiction, my favorite book of all time is Ragtime and I’m sure everything in there didn’t actually happen but there was something about that book that I really loved. I think the big difference between the two books is that the historical figures are present from the beginning of the book in Ragtime but shows up close to the end in Nageira. It’s a matter of sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t.

I’m glad that I participated in this challenge and read some books that I wouldn’t have normally read. It’s got me really excited to participate in the second challenge. I’ll have more time so that I can read all the books for the challenge again. I adore Canadian literature and I look forward to reading more for The Canadian Book Challenge 2.


The Canadian Book Challenge – Yukon Territory

For my seventh book in The Canadian Book Challenge I remained in the north. When I saw this book I couldn’t resist getting a copy for myself. This was a book that helped to propel me back to my childhood, a trip I would take every time the opportunity arises. Robert W. Service’s collection of poetry Best Tales of the Yukon was everything I had hoped. The only part that was lacking were the more than amazing illustrations I grew up with when I either read or had read too the infamous The Cremation of Sam McGee by Ted Harrison.

Unlike the last book of poetry I read, coincidentally for this very challenge, Unsettled I loved Service’s work. His poetry is what many people think of when they think of poetry. It’s a little longer than some poems, but not at the length that would make me call it epic. After reading one you feel compelled to move on the next.

There is nothing negative I could say about this collection of Service’s work unless you want to include my lament for the absence of Harrison’s art work. It’s hard to removed those beautiful images from my memory when I hear The Cremation of Sam McGree, along with the images the first few lines from the poem are pulled to the fore of my thoughts:

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who mail for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

I can already see those haunting images of the northern lights. Even as I write these words I was compelled to go back and read The Cremation of Sam McGee in its entirety. If for nothing else Best Tales of the Yukon is worth reading because of The Cremation of Sam McGee.

I must admit that I haven’t read much of Service’s work so I’m ex-static that I found this collection. I think that’s because the only Canadian poets I can recall having a significant interaction with would be Margaret Atwood *shudder* and Al Purdy. Service is definitely heads over these two. The poems have me yearning for the gold rush up in the Yukon, and I’ve had no experiences with prospecting or mining for gold let alone being around for the Yukon Gold Rush.

It’s been great reading these books from Canada, the country I long for. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Canada and reading these tend to help relieve the homesickness that well in me from time to time. There are still another six books I need to read for this challenge that is quickly drawing to an end. I guess I should push on and get these books finished. This has been a wonderful challenge thus far and I’m excited about what the other provinces and the Northwest Territories have to offer. Back to the bookshelf for some more reading.