Canada – From coast to Coast – Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper

ettaAndOtto2

Why a booktrail?

A love story spanning fifty years, two continents and a great ocean

Story in a nutshell

The past and present of three very different people living in the vast open space of the Canadian prairies.

Etta is a school teacher who settles in the vast Canadian prairies during the time of the Great Depression.  Years later she is now elderly and suffering from Alzheimer’s when she decides to go for a walk from Saskatchewan to Halifax to see the sea.

As she walks, the only thing she takes with her is a note which says ” Etta Gloria Kinnick of Deerdale Farm. 83 years old in August.” A reminder of who she is in case she forgets. She is later accompanied by a coyote who she calls James.

As she walks she thinks about the time she met her husband Otto, before he left to served in the army. She also remembers Russell who lives on the farm next door.

This is the story of Etta and Otto and Russell and James and how their stories interweave into threads of love, hope and nostalgia.

Place and setting

A rough guide to the Journey Etta takes us on!
A rough guide to the Journey Etta takes us on!

The Canadian prairies

Etta walks the story of her and Otto’s life – back when she was Otto’s schoolteacher, when they lived on a farm in a rural town close to their childhood friend and Ella’s not very secret admirer Russell.

From the past….

The farming community back in the day is a harsh environment with farming families needing large families to live off the land, Otto is from a large family , all of them ‘ruddy enfants’ . Russel is learning how farming works and how hard life is. Etta is left behind as Otto fights, waiting for his return.

To the present…

Now years later, the roles are reversed and Otto is forced to wait for Etta as she undertakes the journey of her life. As he waits, he tries to live as best he can. He draws a dotted line across the globe they have and imagines tracing her path and leaving a trail that he hopes will allow her to find her way back to him. He tells her of the day to day life on the farm in her absence and the fact if anyone asks, he tells them she’s out.

As she walks

Soon she meets and befriends a coyote who she calls James. The journey then takes on a magical, mystical feel as it becomes ever more risky for an elderly woman walking alone.

The days get hotter and longer with the sun coming up before five thirty and going down well after nine. The feeling of wandering, of a stream of consciousness portrays Ella’s mind as well as the vast and rural landscape which stretches out before her.

This is the story of a journey steeped in the past but stretching out in to the future and the horizon of their lives.

Left - North Saskatchewan sunset - (C) Tourism Saskatchewan and Greg Husar Photography Right - Saskatoon sunset (c) Tourism Saskatchewan/Hans-Gerhard Pfaff
Left – North Saskatchewan sunset – (C) Tourism Saskatchewan and Greg Husar Photography
Right – Saskatoon sunset (c) Tourism Saskatchewan/Hans-Gerhard Pfaff

Review

What a sweet and endearing novel! It’s hard to write too much about without alluding to what happens but it’s more of a  novel you experience and slowly get to know the characters through until you feel you’re walking alongside Etta. Poor Otto though! I really felt for him and his mapping out her journey on the globe. I felt his sadness and sense of abandonment but it was clever how roles were reversed and Etta had once been the one left behind.

This was a sad novel but a heartwarming one – well with a coyote called James who talks, there has to be some poignant moments. The whole story had an ethereal feel to it and a sense that like life, you are never meant to know or interpret everything as sometimes, things are best left open ended and vague.

A sweet, meandering novel and a love song to Canada at the same time. The music of which has lingered in my ears ever since.

Advertisements

Canadian National Day – Let’s celebrate with a book!

Canadian Flag literary style
Canadian Flag literary style

Happy Birthday Canada!

Some of our favourite books of late have been Canada based and three upcoming ones we’re very excited about are Canadian too so perfect for Canada day is a little round up of Canada goodness –

Saskatchewan – A Place called Winter – Patrick Gale

mao if winter

Inspired by a real life family mystery of a family member who emigrated to Canada, Patrick Gale has drawn a sobering picture of love, family duty, self discovery and hope.

Harry Cane is a quiet unassuming man living in London and married to  respectable Winnie Wells. But behind the facade, the dark truth is bubbling and scandal is not far away. When it becomes too much to bear, Harry is forced to leave everything behind and to emigrate to the newly colonized Canadian prairies to work as a homesteader.

In a place called Winter, conditions are tough and this new life very different to what he expected. Winter can be harsh and Canadian winters the most difficult of all…..but that Gale evokes the landscape like no one else.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/a-place-called-winter-saskatchewan-canada-patrick-gale/

Whistler, BC and Saskatchewan – The Mountain Can Wait – Sarah Leipciger

mountain can wait

This is the story of the haunting relationship between father and son against the raw rugged mountains of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Tom Berry is a single father and a loner – quite at home and at peace with his wilderness home. He’s struggled since the death of his wife to raise his sons with the tough love and respect he shows the mountains. his forestry business has taught him all about strength and perseverance and the need for man to respect his surroundings. His relationship with his sons may not be as easy however.

When Curtis is involved in  a  tragic accident and then flees the scene, Tom goes off hunting once again but this time for his son, Whether he can really track him down and reach him this time however is another question.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/the-mountain-can-wait-canada-sarah-liepciger/

flag

Three Canadian gems we’re very excited about reading –

The Gallery of Lost Species – Nina Berkhout – Vancouver and Ottawa

gallery of lost specia

Vivienne and Edith are sisters growing up in Ottawa, Canada in a very dysfunctional family where love and patience are not welcome house guests. Their mother sits on her bed of unrealized dreams and regrets and so is fixated on pushing Vivienne into beauty pageants ad more. Edith feels constantly lives in her sister’s shadow, but her imagination is allowed to grow so she she lives in a world of unicorns. oddities and extinct animals

AS Vivienne begins her descent into addition, it’s up to Edith as to whether she wants to stay in her own safe world now or leave trying to track down extinct animals and instead try to bring her own sister back from the brink of life.

Michael Crummey  – Sweetland – Newfoundland


SweetlandThe inhabitants of this remote island in Newfoundland have lived and died together. Now, each of them has been offered a generous compensation package  from the government to leave. Moses Sweetland will not leave however. He is haunted by the past and feels he has to stay. When finally he is forced to head to the mainland, he fakes his own death and stays on the island. The only other people here now are the ghosts of the past and the ghosts of the islanders whose porch lights still seem to come on at night….

And one for the bravest of the brave (which we’re not sure we are but we’ll read it when the sun is out and there are no shadows around –

Terry Boyle Haunted Ontario

hauted ontario

Terry Boyle takes us on a tour of haunted Ontario and around some of the most spooky and haunted sites around. We’re going to journey to the Victorian Beild House Inn in Collingwood and wait for the deceased doctor to make a room call, then pay a visit to see if we can spot the woman in white at the Joseph Brant Museum and ask her what she is looking for. Maybe we’ll stop by historic Fort George and see if we can see the ghosts of the past still pacing the grounds.

Canada has some cracking fiction and non fiction to share with the world and these are our five recommendations but there are tons more. The World needs more Canada? Well yes it does but if you can’t get there for real these books might just be the next best thing.

Canadian fiction eh?  We love it. Happy Birthday Canada!!

The Merit Birds – Vientiane, Laos – Kelley Powell

22539234

Why a booktrail?

A journey into a new culture and a new awareness as one boy moves with his family from Ottawa to Laos..

Story

Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott has a lot to deal with at the moment. His dad is not around and his mum has just accepted a job posting in Vientiane, Laos which means a move halfway across the world.  What about his dreams of playing basketball for Ottawa not to mention the strange new culture and life he’s about to have forced on him.

His new life however has some strange effects on him as he begins to make friends and even finds love. There’s a way of building good faith here – you buy a caged bird –  a ‘merit bird’ and that gives you good karma. But when tragedy strikes, Cam finds himself needing a lot of good faith from a culture and people he realises he knows little about.

Place and setting

Laos - Vientiane - Talat Sao morning market Talat Sao is a morning market in Vientiane, Laos. Located at the eastern corner of Lan Xang Rd. and Khu Vieng Rd. in the heart of Vientiane, the morning market is open daily from 07:00 until around 16:00 Mekong River Seng must travel across here and hope that Mother Water saves him. It separates Thailand and Laos Laos - Vang Viend Where Cam says he was on the night of the party Laos - Vientiane  - Patuxai Traffic circle Where the merit birds are captured in cages. Patuxai is a war monument dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. Khang Kok Prison ( fictional)  One character ends up  in here - only foreigners go here. Apparently the prisons for Lao people are worse
Laos – Vientiane – Talat Sao morning market
Talat Sao is a morning market in Vientiane, Laos. Located at the eastern corner of Lan Xang Rd. and Khu Vieng Rd. in the heart of Vientiane, the morning market is open daily from 07:00 until around 16:00
Mekong River
Seng must travel across here and hope that Mother Water saves him. It separates Thailand and Laos
Laos – Vang Viend
Where Cam says he was on the night of the party
Laos – Vientiane – Patuxai Traffic circle
Where the merit birds are captured in cages. Patuxai is a war monument dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France.
Khang Kok Prison ( fictional)
One character ends up in here – only foreigners go here. Apparently the prisons for Lao people are worse

The journey to Laos was ‘first happy Millennium, then welcome to the dark ages’. Everything seems in slow motion, everyone is sleepy or relaxed and from the moment they get into a tuk tuk, Cam’s impression is clear

During the drive, I saw that Vientiane wasn’t even a city. It was just a bunch of grubby villages that grew into one another”

The Laos culture, seen through Cam’s eyes is a brutally honest, yet still colourful snapshot of life here. This is no paradise, the palm trees are skinny and the ponds stagnant. A  young woman kills a chicken at the side of the road – the palette of beauty and death mixing in to a glorious ruby red on the street.

From first impressions to some that linger 

They lived by the saying ‘boh penyang’ – ‘no worries.’ They saved their energy for telling jokes and helping out friends or family. It seemed kind of simple, yet profound at the same time. Weird how a poor country like Laos can be so rich.”

The Merit Birds are a way to build up merit and karma in one’s life and so when Cam is sent to Laos prison, the messages of Karma. Buddhist faith, the cultural differences in the country are all explored. How free was he really in Canada? How trapped is he now in Laos? As free as a bird?

Then I came to the last trembling bird. “Go!” I urged him. “Get out of here”. But the bird stayed – so used to the cage and so fearful of the unknown.

The sights, sounds, smells, faces and everywhere from the market stalls to the flashy clubs to the brown paddy fields and of course the inside of a Laos prison all stunningly evoked so the reader gets to experience it as Cam does. In vivid coulour. And those merit birds continue to flap their wings in your mind.

Bookish musings

Not having read much YA before – I know shame on me! I wanted to read this as it sounded very impressive from the outset. The locations were a particular attraction but as soon as I started to read, it was clear how this was going to be a mix of stories -an angry young teenager taken out of his comfort zone, a cultural shock to contend with and one heck of a misadventure. There’s a romance and  a search for the truth and that combination made for some interesting reading.

I felt completely transported to Vientiane and through Cam’s eyes, I felt a confused teenager in a new land with every noise, smell, sight –  even the weather was so very different to those in Canada.

It’s a coming of age story and there were times I could have slapped some sense in to Cam to be honest, but then that’s just me. The whole story is more important than any quibbles I had about him. Might be different if I were a teenager.

A really good blend of cultures, landscapes, teenage emotions and life lessons to be learned. Oh and the idea of Merit Birds was a particular highlight for me. What they are and what they stand for  – something to take away from this book no matter where in the world you’re from.

The Mountain Can Wait – Canada – Sarah Liepciger

mountain can wait

Why a booktrail?

The haunting relationship between father and son against the raw rugged mountains of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Story

Tom Berry is a single father and a loner – quite at home and at peace with his wilderness home. He’s struggled since the death of his wife to raise his sons with the tough love and respect he shows the mountains. his forestry business has taught him all about strength and perseverance and the need for man to respect his surroundings. His relationship with his sons may not be as easy however.

When Curtis is involved in  a  tragic accident and then flees the scene, Tom goes off hunting once again but this time for his son, Whether he can really track him down and reach him this time however is another question.

Place and setting

Literary locations in the book
Whistler
Where the book opens and the accident occurs
Fort St James
A significant town close to the loggers plantations
Takla Lake
The men are leaving for the logging camp at Takla Lake
Trembleur
One of the lakes in the logging area
Kamloops
“Hills so old they were like old piles of bedsheets”
Nanaimo (the port and harbour)
The search for Curtis leads to here and Vancouver Island. Aguarush island appears to be fictional yet it could be any one of the small islands here

Literary tourism snapshots

Photos courtesy of Sarah Leipciger
Photos courtesy of Sarah Leipciger

Set in a stunning but scarred Canadian landscape, the landscape is at one with the story unfolding and the characters involved in it.

The story takes us from Whistler to Quesnel, Vanderhof, Fort St James and Takla Lake. A significant place is Aguarish Island near Vancouver island and the ferry ride to that place. The place names – Crossbow Creek, McCleod River and Black Pond reveal the close relationship of man and earth.

But the landscape here is something more of a persona experience too for the author not only evokes but recreates the raw and rugged life as a worker on the  lumber plantations of the Canadian Pacific Ranges. This is a lifestyle and setting unfamiliar to many but the details from the author bring this to life –

The logging camp in a dusty, rocky clearing, was small and functional; five long boxcars couple together in a row, elevated on concrete blocks

Accustomed to waiting the planters dropped their bags to the ground, sat against them, and smoked.

As well as the lumber workers however this is the story of the lesser known planters and the competition they face working on the mountains. The main threat however is the climate and the weather where a life in the mountains shapes everything in daily life –

“Weatherman says it only going to keep getting hotter and drier, we’d like you to move to fire hours”

The planters are known to smoke which is a fire hazard and so ‘if seedlings were handled in the middle of the day when it’s baking” they will dry out. Weather here more than anywhere dictates the rhythm of life and work.

The landscape which dictates and shapes everything in this place –

The uniformity of this place had a way of lulling a person into something like a dream

Land and people as one.

Bookish musings

Stark raw prose blends landscape and story well together. Tom searches for his son in a physical and emotional sense and the pain and scars are hard to face. Having had no knowledge of this part of the world and the world of the loggers and planters, it was a fascinating read of the mountains and the superiority of the landscape versus men. In fact the landscape was the central character for it shaped characters and story and I felt drawn into the land and its weather beaten ways.

A slow story for characters and plot but one which lingers with you and builds up a picture of a different life, a different way of thinking, and a father searching for his son in every sense of the word.

The relationships between a single father and his son is not one I’ve read much about and so this was both unique and interesting in equal measure.But it’s the setting which really shines.

A Place called Winter – Saskatchewan, Canada – Patrick Gale

mao if winter

Why a booktrail?

Inspired by a real life family mystery of a family member who emigrated to Canada, Patrick Gale has drawn a sobering picture of love, family duty, self discovery and hope.

Story in a nutshell

1900s London

Harry Cane is a quiet unassuming man who is also shy and eligible marriage material and so soon becomes married to Winnie Wells. Her family appear as respectable and the match a good one. Indeed marriage seems good and a baby soon follows.

But behind the facade, the dark truth is bubbling and scandal is not far away. When it becomes too much to bear, Harry is forced to leave everything behind and to emigrate to the newly colonized Canadian prairies to work as a homesteader.

In a place called Winter, conditions are tough and this new life very different to what he expected. Yet he finds something unexpected

Place and setting

The map at the start of the book
The map at the start of the book
BOOKTRAIL HALIFAX - Moose Jaw Winter Where Harry settles and the titled town of the novel Yonker Just down the line from Winter North Battlefields The HQ of the Dominion Lands office was here Cut Knife “There was sign of life in Cut Knife”
BOOKTRAIL
Moose Jaw
Winter
Where Harry settles and the titled town of the novel
Yonker
Just down the line from Winter
North Battleford/Battleford – The Battlefords
The HQ of the Dominion Lands office was here
Cut Knife
“There was sign of life in Cut Knife”

Three very different settings and their differences are highlighted by their stark contrast

The Asylum, Canada

As the novel opens, Harry is fighting to stay sane and alive in an asylum where he is forced to undergo treatments to settle his mind and to solve his ‘ troubles’. The treatment is harsh and unexpected. What has led to this? What is Harry’s story? Even a more comfortable establishment, causes Harry to have flashbacks on his life, taking us to London and then back to Canada at the start of the railways…..

Edwardian London

In London, Harry is a shy young man with a stammer and a lazy attitude to life in general. When at last he is married into the Wells family from Strawberry Vale in Twickenham,  London, it’s more a platonic relationship than anything else and his life is once more a societal expectation rather than a free reign. Observing women in the street-

Were they blameless less or scarlet?

Of course it was in the nature of respectability to reveal or imply nothing but itself.

These are the times with plenty of expectations and social constraints – taking a bath in Jermyn Street or attending the musical theatre of the Gaiety girls with his wife. They settle in Herne Bay and for a while life is good if not boring. Such strict constraints and expectations are shattered when he falls in love with another man. When people find out, the consequences are shocking.

Canada

To feel that emigration is the best solution to avoiding a relationship and the shame it would bring on your family is shocking and sad to read. Under the threat of total social isolation, he sets off to Canada where the saying is ‘Civilisation will follow the railway’ Harry becomes  homesteader and a labourer on  a remote Saskatchewan prairie.

The Canadian wilderness with its new railway towns is harsh, cold and very very remote and the settlements are changing the face of the landscape. On a  map of the Canadian Pacific Railway System, you can find Castle Battleford the home of the Dominion Lands office.

Another lesser railway went on from there to stop at places like Unity, Vera, Winter, Yonker and Zumbro. “Troels says the places are named in alphabetical orders because there’s nothing else to call them in  such a vast, empty space.”

The land and the work is harsh. The development of the railways and the men working on it is fascinating as it is hard to imagine the scope of the work they are doing. Painful, laborious and brutal conditions. Indeed even the packing list which all immigrants were issued with before arrival seemed harsh, then the reality once they get there is all the more so.

Two pairs Canadian mittens

A cholera belt

Two jerseys (Guernsey knit for endurance)

In this harsh climate far far away from the troubles of uptight and clinical London, Harry forms a new life and new friends but the threat of war and of other things is not too far away –

Where are the shackles around Harry’s ankles the tightest? In cold static London, the Canadian wilderness or the asylum?

mao if winter

Bookish musings

This was such a personal and heartbreaking story of loss and endurance that it was unbelievable that this poor man went through so much just because of who he was and the time he lived in. The author has taken a personal family story and has turned this into something poetic and haunting. Edwardian London contrasts with the working conditions of the harsh Canadian landscape and follows the struggles of one man, but I imagine representative of so many.

The setting of Canada and the part of history where the railways were booming and towns were growing up along the line was fascinating to read about. The lives of these people, the homesteaders and the roles men and women played were insightful and fascinating. Details such as the list given to those emigrating and the way the towns were named along the line drew an interesting picture of the Canadian wilderness.

A haunting story of one man’s quest to be himself and to escape the past.

And we think the book of 2015 that is not to be missed!

The Robber Bride – Toronto – Margaret Atwood

robbber bride

Why the booktrail?

Atwood is a celebrated Canadian writer and Toronto is a smart city backdrop for deep discussion and secrets from the past.

Story in a nutshell

Set in present day Toronto, three women (Roz, Charis, and Tony) meet once a month in a restaurant to share a meal.

They are united due to a betrayal  -a long dead university classmate, Zenia, had stolen, one by one, their respective boyfriends. In flashbacks we find out that Zenia has told each of the women a different story and they try to work out the truth.

Their stories are different and each woman finds it hard to trust or believe the other, but there are facts which unite them all – Then they finally meet the one person that could hold al the answers from the past. And they may not be prepared for what they hear next.

Place and setting

Mount Pleasant cemetery - where the dead are supposed to be buried! https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Mount+Pleasant+Cemetery/@43.696764,-79.382904,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x882b334a68c20f05:0xbab5b57125be32ae Lake Ontario and the island ferry. The Toronto Island Park is a must see - paradise in the city! “From here on the island, the city is mysterious, like a mirage, like a cover on a book of science.” https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Toronto+Island+Park/@43.6293947,-79.2503714,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x8e3ffde4e5f70424 ‘Toxique’ is situated on Queen Street - where the girls meet. Queen Street separates between East and West at Yonge Street. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Queen+St+West+at+Yonge+St+(Queen+Station)/@43.6530281,-79.3793196,18z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x882b34e317aca05d:0x2bcd2b62512b9e2e!2sToronto,+ON,+Canada!3b1!3m1!1s0x89d4cb333906f88f:0x7117e6b458796a2d Toronto University - 27 King's College Cir Where the mysterious of Zenia begins... https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/University+of+Toronto+-+St.+George+Campus/@43.662892,-79.395656,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x882b34b8f331fd9b:0x8d1d9bb6765a76f7 Chinatown at Queen and Spadina An area of the city that the girls say has changed with the range of cafes and foods on offer now
Mount Pleasant cemetery – where the dead are supposed to be buried!

The Toronto Island Park, Lake Ontario –  is a must see,  paradise in the city!
“From here on the island, the city is mysterious, like a mirage, like a cover on a book of science fiction.”

Toxique’ is situated on Queen Street – where the girls meet. Queen Street separates between East and West at Yonge Street.

Toronto University – 27 King’s College Cir
Where the mysterious of Zenia begins…

Chinatown at Queen and Spadina
An area of the city that the girls say has changed with the range of cafes and foods on offer now

Well Toronto is the home of Margaret Atwood and it shows for she writes so passionately about her home town and the places and people in it.

The mystery of their classmate Zenia and the tangled web she weaves flows throughout the novel as we are introduced to a world of fantasy and illusion. A world of mirrors if you will.

The story was inspired by a Grimm Fairytale, the Robber Bridegroom so if you are familiar with this then you will have some inkling of what is in store, but that’s before you see the Atwood touch. Zenia is the woman who is almost like that mythical figure who reinvents herself each time she feels like it – she eats people for breakfast and spits them out, she controls her world and  woe betide anyone who tries to stop her.

The Toronto here is a maze, a mirror and a place of mystery for three threads of a story to unfold. This Toronto may not be the nicest one portrayed  – its in the middle of financial trouble for a start – but it plays a major role as its where the women all live and meet up. This is their Toronto and we get to see some really unique and interesting angles of it!

Looking at a map of the city :

There is down town Toronto – Here is the Toxique, there is Queen Street here is Roz’s renovated office building; here are the ferry docks and the flat Island where Charis’s house still stands.

From that island –

“From here on the island,  the city is mysterious like a mirage, like the cover on a book of science fiction.”

RobberBride

Bookish musings

Toronto is one of my favourite cities in the world and it holds many special book memories for me so the chance to go back there via fiction from Margaret Atwood was just too great an opportunity to miss. Toronto is a city of contrasts as is this book, for it reflects both what you think is real and what is actually real. Ooh a tantalising mix!

The story of Zenia captivated me for it was mysterious and looked at the connections and relationships between four women (Tony, Charis and Roz) and of course, Zenia.  Zenia is somewhat of a femme fatale who seems to need each of her ‘ friends; for different reasons. Zenia seems to be several different people and each woman describes her differently. Very mysterious and I just loved the ending.

Margaret Atwood creates worlds and scenarios that you just have to experience and i will never forget Zenia, that’s for sure. Seeing the Toronto I know and love via her and her friends’ eyes was quite the literary journey.

Entry Island – Canada – Peter May

booky-bo

Setting – Entry Island or I’Ile d’entrée, in French  – just of the Eastern coast of  Quebec province in Canada and the Scottish Island of Lewis –

qubec-and-scot

Story in a nutshell – 

Aaah Canada – a favourite country of choice here at the booktrail so this was an easy book to choose for a trail.

Montreal detective Sime Mackenzie, is a bit of a loner amongst his colleagues – he is certainly different as with his Scottish heritage for one, he is seen as different too.

He’s called upon to help with the possible murder of a business man who lived on the island. Sime is a man on a mission as he wants nothing more than to make a journey of many many miles northeast to Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

The journey Sime takes from Montreal to the island  - where destiny awaits
The journey Sime takes from Montreal to the island – where destiny awaits

For this is some place – a setting of darkness and foreboding, remote and forgotten where only 100 or so people live. And the richest of them all – has been murdered.

The victim’s widow is the obvious suspect – but this causes problems from the start for Sime since he is sure he knows her personally and what’s more, he starts to have feelings for her he’s not sure that he should have.

Entry Island - where Destiny awaits......
Entry Island – where Destiny awaits……

Peter May is the master artist with his paintbrush poised when it comes to evoking the setting of his novels –

A crescent of silver sand curls away towards the cemetery and the standing stones on the rise

The full effect is quite akin to looking through an old film camera and seeing the darkened vignette of history sweep across the screeen at regular intervals. And there is a linguistic thrill to this too (which we love here at the booktrail)

The murder took place on I’Ile d’entrée, Sime. Between known to ins inhabitants as Entry Island. The Madelinots are French-speaking for the most part, but on Entry they speak only English.

http://www.ilesdelamadeleine.com/blog/category/actualite/

For this is a novel with a dark past and a darker legacy – the crofters on the island worked hard while the rich masters did not. Its at this point that the historical legacy thread to the story really comes to the fore Sime’s ancestors used to live in the Scottish Highlands before they moved to Canada during the Highland Clearances in the 19th century.

The remote and dark island where there is a lot going on underneath the innocent exterior....
The remote and dark island where there is a lot going on underneath the innocent exterior….

The novel is one of present and past and its during the past that the settings really shine. The Highland Clearances were a dark and violent period of history  – where landlords ejected crofters from the land at will and with some force and made sure they disappeared in any way possible. Those interested in Scottish history but knowing nothing of this time, it was quite an eye opener and after finishing the novel I headed straight to Google and read more on the subject.

This is not to say that the contemporary part of the novel is not as striking as its historical partner – certainly the setting is as dark and mysterious as an Island just off Quebec in Canada would suggest. But the setting once again holds the clues to the secrets of the past –

“He crouches down to touch the earth, and in doing so feels a direct connection with history, communing with ghosts, a ghost himself haunting his own past. And yet not his past. He closes his eyes and imagines how it was, how it felt, knowing that this is where it all began, in another age, in someone else’s life.”

This is the chillingly brilliant and evocative writing of Peter May which is as evocative of anything we’ve ever read here. Where the past and the present merge and the detective has to sort out the truth from what history tells him.

Entry Island is a very interesting fusion of crime thriller, detective/police procedural and romantic historical fiction. Two settings, two time periods and one hell of a novel.

Entry Island is a fascinating place – at times  dark and where time passes slowly yet lighter in tone in others with a huge sense of foreboding all the way through. The prose reflects this brilliantly and the pace more than matches what is happening in the novel as a whole. The tension as Sime becomes more and more obsessed not to mention drawn into the whole affair of clearing Kirsty’s name, then the pace racks up a notch on the thriller scale. And it doesn’t hold back.

If you haven’t discovered Entry Island yet – we recommend you do so as you will never forget your visit. See Peter May here – http://www.petermay.co.uk/ and on twitter – @authorpetermay

Canada Day!

Canada Day!
Canada Day!

Today is Canada Day – the national day of Canada – my adoptive land. It’s a country I feel a real affinity to and always celebrate the day – usually by making some home made poutine (chips and gravy with cheese curds) but it’s never the same.

And I’ve been back to Canada so many times I’ve lost count Well a ticket there only costs the price of a book or the use of a library ticket if you travel via fiction!

So for this Independent Book Week, I thought it was apt to buy a book set in Canada. Well, that was the intention. I ended up buying a few… and even went to places I hadn’t been before. This is the one I wanted to read first, and so this is my IBW2014 choice for Canada Day, eh!

Cool Water is useful in the desert environment...
Cool Water is useful in the desert environment…

Think Canada is all snow and vast urban landscapes? 

There is a very interesting and unique place, not perhaps known to as many people outside of Canada as within, but one which totally surprised me and lead me to buy a book as so much I wanted to go back there.

Saskatchewan

The mysterious ' desert' sands of Saskatchewan
(A) Moose Jaw, (B) Medecine Hat (C) The mysterious ‘ desert’ sands of Saskatchewan between Winnipeg and Calgary

Setting – Juliet, Saskatchewan – may be fictional yet  a character study of the people and the setting of a small prairie town in Western Canada.

Set amongst the sand hills in Saskatchewan yes that’s right -there is like a mini desert right in the middle of what assume to be a cold country. Well, I was as shocked as the next person – particularly as I had just passed through a place called Moose Jaw. Oh and after the sand hills, we passed through another town called Medicine Hat. (Does JK Rowling know about this? I feel this could appear in another HP story if she ever returns to the series) Already I liked the area-

The setting

Inspired by the area of  the Little Snake sand hills Saskatchewan and possibly even Swift Current, Saskatchewan, it really does seem to paint a broad picture of prairie life and the weird and wonderful facets of human nature. How does nature and environment affect the people who live in a chosen spot?

This book is a look at the people who live in the small and fictional town of Juliet. Apt that the town has a human name for it’s almost a character in itself. The story flows from one character to the next, the stories blending into each other – much like the sand on the sand hills themselves. Yet each small grain is important and together forms an interesting, larger picture.

The sand hills are made up of many different types of grains – some are sad such as the middle aged couple or the wife of the bank manager who realises after his death just what she has lost.

Other stories are light heartened and humorous but still retain the sense of poignancy that runs through the book. Every character is complex but as the book cover a little over 24 hours then the focus on them is tight and like a spotlight bringing every little detail into focus.

Fancy a trip to Canada like no other?

Take some Cool Water for the heat of Saskatchewan….

Mums and reading on Mother’s Day

Give flowers today –

Book Flowers!
Book Flowers!

Every mother is a book

Thats worth their weight in gold

For both can offer up some warmth

If you are feeling cold

For reading is just like a hug

That mothers often give

With words of wisdom, sprinkled in

Warm memories to relive

Your mother may have read to you

Your very first real story

So give a hug of thanks so that

Today she gets the glory!

This mother’s day why don’t you buy a book for your lovely mum. I did and she’s been quiet for an hour now! aah peace at last hehe.

Having tea with mum with one of our Mother's Day titles
Having tea with mum with one of our Mother’s Day titles

Of course I’m joking – its lovely to see reading being passed up the generation instead of just down it.

She’s always been a reader but recently she has started to read more and more and of course, I’m only to happy to help!

We’re having tea and I’ve got this book ready for her about a mum who would do anything to protect her child. Set in Canada

THE_MISSING_ONE_newest_image

 

What about the most matriachal mother there is? Set in the USA

littlel women

And let’s not forget the adoptive mum – Set in Prince Edward Island

aogglmm

The story about motherly love and loss that made me cry –

51UB5kB9qRL

What about the one who wants to relieve her dying mother’s anguish and to find a secret that has been buried somewhere in her past? Set in Suffolk and London and Australia

secret-keeper-pb-7b-advertorial

And we have to mention the one with a mother’s love that lasts and lasts for decades and a mother who never ever gives up on finding out the truth of what happened to her little boy –

 

The Midnight Rose - Set in India and England
The Midnight Rose – Set in India and England

 

There are many more books written about and dedicated to our most precious of people. Would love to hear your picks!

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers out there x