Two More Books
I was pleasantly surprise that so many of my non-Canadian readers had read and enjoyed Anne of Green Gables. It got me to thinking of other Canadian novels I was aware of as a child which were well know in the first half of the 20th Century but less so now.
Being educated in Canada meant you studied more American literature than Canadian, of which there was some but not a lot. Stephen Leacock and W. O. Mitchell come to mind. The two novels I remember studying in high school were Prester John and Barometer Rising. The former takes place in South Aftrica while the latter is actually a Canadian novel by Hugh Maclennan set in Halifax during the Halifax Disaster. This was the extent of my formal study of Canadian Literature, while I had read lots of American literature, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Moby Dick, Billy Budd, Last of the Mohicans etc.
Years later, when my son studied the novel in high school, he read Deliverance, an American novel, a light weight one at that. Why shouln't Canadian literature be studied in high school? By this time Canada had experienced a cultural renaissance in excellent literature which could have been read. It is hard to understand. It strikes me as lower expectations for a blue collar rural high school. Give them a easy short novel not classic English literature an excellent Canadian novels. It seems a novel by any one of a number of prize winning authors ( Margaret Atwood, Magaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler, Timothy Findlay, Michael Ondaatje, Robertson Davies , etc, ) would be too hard or not as interesting. Enough of this pet peeve I would like explained to me some time.
Beautiful Joe was a book I remember reading when I was young. I found this above photo of the very dust jacket of the copy we had.
Beautiful Joe is the story of a dog who was cruelly abused by a man and rescued by a family that gave him a home. His ears and tail had been cut off among other abuses. In the end, Joe has an opportunity for "pay back". This story was based on a real dog in Meaford, Ontario. Marshall Saunders Margaret had heard the story She wrote the story, relocating it in Maine and ended up winning a prize from the Humane Society. This is the first Canadian book to sell over 1 million copies. I don't think it is read much anymore although it is still available.
Margaret Marshall Saunders, interestingly, was a contempory and friend of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Both attended the same Scottish/French school in Nova Scotia. She wrote many books which were social commentaries of the time.
We had in our house when I was young Jalna, by Mazo de la Roche. She wrote a whole series of 16 novels about the Whiteoaks family. They are about four generations of English gentry set in a Canadian setting. I was aware of Mazo de la Roche not so much of having read a little of what she wrote but because I grew up within five miles of the estate the Jalna stories were set in. In Clarkson, Ontario it is now know as Benares House.
Surprise me! Let me know you have read and enjoyed either of these books. I suspect they will not be as well known as Anne of Green Gables.