Category: Canadian 5 out of 5s

New Beginnings edited by Erik D’Souza

New Beginnings edited by Erik D’Souza

This is a collection of short stories written by British Columbian writers. Because Canada has a diverse population, there are tales from Africa, Asia and Europe as well as local stories. The collection contains both fiction and non-fiction and I was proud to include two of my own short stories both set in Tanzania.

Emma Donoghue’s — The wonder *****

Emma Donoghue’s — The wonder *****

Lib, an English nurse, arrives in an Irish village in the 1850s to keep watch over Anna so as to confirm that she doesn’t eat. The child’s fast is driving the faithful on pilgrimages to her house and Lib is suspicious.

This is not only a book about the politics of religion, but blind faith and Lib is determined to get to the bottom of why Anna fasts.

How did this author keep me engrossed in her tale when most of the story is set in Anna O’Donnell’s bedroom? It’s no wonder, this book is beautifully written as well as an intriguing tale.

Yann Martel’s — Life of Pi *****

Yann Martel’s — Life of Pi *****

A Man Booker prize winner, this novel traces Pi Patel’s journey from Pondicherry by sea. His father has brought the animals from the zoo they once owned in the coastal city, but not long into the journey, the boat sinks and Pi and a few of the animals are the only survivors.

While the movie of this book was beautifully filmed with a well chosen cast, it failed to capture the philosophical essence that made the book a memorable read.

Audrey Thomas’ — Isobel Gunn *****

Audrey Thomas’ — Isobel Gunn *****

The Orkney islanders think Isobel Gunn is crazy when she races to meet each ship docked in the harbour asking about James. Only Magnus remembers how heroic Isobel was twenty years earlier when she disguised herself as a man and sailed to Rupert’s Land back in the 1800s to work in the harsh Canadian wilderness.

Equally as good is Thomas’ Tatty Coram, a minor character from one of Dickens’ novels whom she weaves into the life of Dickens himself.

Shyam Selvadurai’s — The hungry ghosts *****

Shyam Selvadurai’s — The hungry ghosts *****

When Shivan prepares to return to Colombo to bring his aging grandmother to Canada, memories of his childhood flood back. He remembers how he was the one forced to befriend the greedy and callous matriarch so his widowed mother and sister would not be kicked out of her house. He suffers her beatings and insults because his grandmother despises his mother for marrying a Tamil and producing two half Tamil children.

Set through an era of political hatred towards the Tamil minority (that still persists to day) and grappling with Shivan’s sexual orientation, this is a story wrought with tension on many levels.

Joanna Goodman’s — The home for unwanted girls *****

Joanna Goodman’s — The home for unwanted girls *****

Although Maggie’s mother is French Canadian, Maggie is sent to an English school by her English father. But in spite of her predominantly English up bringing, she falls in love with a poor French boy, Gabriel. At fifteen she discovers she’s pregnant. Pressured by 1950s Quebec’s stance on unwedded mothers and her beloved father’s threat of abandoning her if she keeps the child and has any more to do with Gabriel, Maggie’s child, Elodie is taken from her.

Goodman presents the English/French mistrust in Quebec to perfection and while at times the story is predictable, the experiences of little Elodie’s time in two institutions reflects the horror orphans of that era went through. A compelling read.

Helen Humphreys’ — Afterimage*****

Helen Humphreys’ — Afterimage*****

When Annie’s strict employer dies in London she travels to the Dashell’s country residence to be their maid. She finds her new employer completely opposite from her London position. The Dashells are not fussy about the state of the house. They don’t set traps for her like her last employer. And they are not religious expecting her to pray daily.

Instead, she fines herself drawn away from the work she is employed to do into Isabelle Dashell’s obsession with photography becoming her model while Eldon Dashell is fixated over maps. Annie’s love of books draws her into Eldon’s world of exploration in his packed library while Isabelle’s selfish demands pull her into a situation she wants to escape. Will she be strong enough to break away?