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.
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.
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.
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?
Gwen leaves her job at the London Royal Horticultural Society during the Blitz and volunteers to oversee a group of girls in the Land Army. She heads to Devon to discover most of the girls are more interested in the Canadian officers stationed nearby than working the land for the war effort. With little confidence in her ability to lead a group of unwilling workers, Gwen finds a friend and supporter in Jane.
This beautifully written short novel deals with friendships and love lost through the experiences of the three main characters and a hidden garden Gwen discovers while she roams over the estate.
After their widowed father’s death in the 1930s, Nora leaves for New York while her sister, Clara, stays behind teaching in Canada. But while Clare is out on a walk, she is raped. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she travels to New York where Nora and a friend help her seek an abortion before she returns to Canada.
After her ordeal is behind her, she meets a friendly middle-aged man she falls in love with. But is he everything she believes he is?
This non-fiction book deals with wild foods and medicinal plants in Canada. It describes how and when to forage for different plants such as chickweed or wild rose.
What I find useful beside the information under each plant are the excellent clear photographs to help identify the right plant. Additionally, at the back of the book are recipes incorporating wild foods, but best of all, is a chart explaining each herb’s health benefit for healing ailments. I wouldn’t be without this book.