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The Recommend: RomComs, Mysteries, Shoe Sellers, and Icons of CanLit

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of writers Ian Colford (A Dark House and Other Stories), Ariela Freedman (A Joy to Be Hidden), Farah Heron (The Chai Factor), Sky Curtis (Traps), Heidi L.M. Jacobs (Molly of the Mall), and Denis Coupal (Blindshot).

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Ian Colford recommends Alison Watt's Dazzle Patterns

Dazzle Patterns is a quietly seductive novel, set at the time of the Halifax Explosion, which took place on the morning of December 6, 1917. Clare Holmes, a young woman employed in the glassworks, is injured when a window is blown apart by the blast. Fred Baker, a co-worker, takes Clare to the hospital. Clare, alone in the city, longs for her fiancé, Leo, who is fighting in France. But as the war drags on, Clare and Fred frequently find themselves in each other’s company and are taken by surprise when a trusting intimacy springs up between them. Alison Watt, a professional artist, brings her interest in the visual experience to her debut novel. The writing …

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Dazzle Patterns: The Books Behind the Book

A poet and non-fiction writer, Alison Watt makes a splendid debut as a novelist with Dazzle Patterns, a beautiful and vivid novel set against the backdrop of the Halifax Explosion. In this list, Watt shares the books behind the book, the works she drew on to bring her historical period to life. 

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Dazzle Patterns begins in Halifax, on the day of its famous Explosion. The novel follows the stories of three people, whose lives are braided together: Clare, a flaw checker at a glass factory, Leo, her fiancé  fighting in France, and Fred, a German immigrant and master glassmaker at the factory.

Both Clare and Fred begin studies at the Victoria School of Art, under the direction of Arthur Lismer, who would go on to be a member of the Group of Seven, and found a new school of Canadian painting. Leo is captured and held behind German lines.

The novel is as much about art as war and the following books speak these two themes, as well as the historic Halifax explosion. Their riches lie among the everyday details buried in text and photos, which I could draw on to try to bring that faraway time and place to life for the modern reader.

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