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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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.


At 8:56 a.m., Blogger Sam said...

I haven't read either of these two books, but I did read Margaret Atwood in school. I have also just read another canadian author, you would love this book. Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. Amazing book!

Yes I have read Anne of Green Gables and also every other book in the Anne series. I think they are truly a Canadian right of passage.

At 9:49 a.m., Blogger Old Wom Tigley said...

Beautiful Joe, is available to read on Google Books.. I find reading so hard now.. I just can not keep the interest going.. it's not the books for sure it me.

At 10:02 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I've read a couple by Hugh Maclennan, including Watch That Ends the Night (I think) and another that I forget.

At 10:04 a.m., Blogger judie said...

Hi Phillip. I'm venturing out in blogland again. Just visiting, not blogging myself yet. White Oaks looks like a good book that I'd like to read. I've been reading a lot lately...nothing heavy...just something to keep my mind contained. Right now I am reading Fall On Your Knees, by Canadian author Ann-Marie Macdonald. No comment about it just yet. I'm only on the second chapter and it has not gripped me yet. Nice to be visiting you again.

At 11:09 a.m., Blogger Navigator said...

Thought you might interested in this 2002 survey which bears out your theme.

Most of my reading of Canadian literature occurred in university (I was an English literature major) where I took courses on the subject and subsequently. There was actually a good treasure trove of Canadian literature and at the time that we went to high school, (1960s) it was available but discounted by the teaching profession. It would appear that not a lot has changed in the nearly half century that has elapse since, except that the available literature has expanded enormously and is also very good. Shame on Canadian educators.

At 3:21 p.m., Blogger Peggy said...

I am going to try and read Beautiful Joe. I usually always read at night but lately I have been slack. Time to pick those books back up and read, read, read

At 5:27 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've not read any of those you mention but I will certainly have a look for them.
At school we read, Lord of the Flies, Kes and Of Mice and Men. All of which I loved but Kes was my favourite. (by Barry Hines)

At 8:23 p.m., Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Daffy refered to the novel Kes which is actually "A Kestrel for a Knave" which i have not read but it sounds interesting

At 9:22 p.m., Blogger Peggy said...

BTW Happy Birthday!!!

At 11:29 p.m., Blogger Kathiesbirds said...

Hi! I found you on Wiggers World. The title of your blog intrigued me and now I'm glad I came. I also read Beautiful Joe as a child and cried over every page. I still have a copy, though not one quite as old as yours. I haven't read it in years. Perhaps I should dig it out. One of my all time favorite books that takes place in Canada and I believe is written by Canadiens (2 authors) is "Mrs. Mike." I never read it until I was an adult but fell absolutely in love with the story. It is in my top 10 list of favorite stories and may be the top pick. After 30 to 40 years they published a sequel a few years back called "The Search For Joyful" but it was not as good as the first. I think they took too many modern ideas and tried to impose them on the past.

At 9:11 a.m., Blogger Gretchen said...

Those are two I haven't read yet, but will add them to my list and look for them.

Oh, you have an award over at my page. Stop by and pick it up. :)

At 12:21 p.m., Blogger Janet said...

Alas I haven't read those two, but now I'll be looking for them. I imagine Beautiful Joe will have me in tears all the way through (but then again, my Anne books have many many tear-stained pages). I have read Margaret Atwood.

What I can't get over was your son reading Deliverance. IN HIGH SCHOOL! If they must insist on inflicting American literature on Canadian youth, that particular one would be near the very bottom of the list.

At 6:48 p.m., Blogger possum said...

I had to stop and think about books I have read by Canadians and realized I didn't pay that much attention to where authors were from - but also I don't read that much fiction. Who has the time??? Anyway, for what it is worth, the only Canadian books I can easily remember are books by Farley Mowat, and I still have a bunch of them. Several of them are way up there in my list of favorites. A friend of mine even named one of her dogs Farley after him.
You flirting with my cousin??? You made her day!

At 9:23 p.m., Blogger Rachel said...

Oh, I love Anne of Green Gables!! That is my favorite movie and I watch it over again every now and then! I have the Avonlea DVD's and love them too! I love seeing them as they dressed back then with their hair up, long beautiful dresses, hats, etc. Just good clean shows with some humor thrown in! Since seeing the movie I have always wanted to visit Prince Edwards Island.

Beautiful Joe sounds like a great, but probably sad, book.

At 10:01 p.m., Blogger Laurie said...

I loved Anne of Green Gables! It was one of my favorite books when I was young.


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