It's August, and the buzzing has started already. Late summer sees the release of David Bergen's The Age of Hope, his follow-up to the award-winning The Matter with Morris. Former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant has written 28 Seconds, his account of the 2009 altercation that resulted in a cyclist's death. Y is the first novel by Marjorie Celona, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, the story of a girl who begins her life abandoned on the doorstep of the YMCA. Poet Lorna Crozier has written The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Every Day Things, a series of prose meditations which, as Giller-winner Esi Edugyan writes, "raises the objects of everyday life into things of alien beauty." Detective novelist Louise Penny has released her latest Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, The Beautiful Mystery, about murder among monks at a remote monastery in Northern Quebec (to the soundtrack of Gregorian chants). Doug Saunders follows up his award-winning Arrival City with The Myth of the Muslim Tide. And Susan Swan's new novel is The Western Light, a return to the life of Mouse Bradford, heroine of Swan's 1993 novel The Wives of Bath.
The Far Euphrates by Aryeh Lev Stollman: A luminous coming of age novel set in Windsor Ontario in the fifties and sixties. Stollman writes about the most complicated and mysterious parts of life with a grace and beauty that is all the more powerful for its quietness. I’ve included it on my list because the emotional impact of it still resonates in me ten years after having read it for the first time.
The English Stories by Cynthia Flood: As a novelist, I am always in awe of writers who capture an entire world in a short story. Cynthia Flood is one such writer and each of the stories in The English Stories, her most recent offering , is a gem of concise, spare prose, compassionate observation and sly humour.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry: This book is on my list simply because it is magnificent—rich, full, teeming with life. Mistr …
“There is a sense in which all novels are ghost stories: fictional characters are translucent phantoms, which readers believe in (or don’t); readers lurk in the presence of characters, spying on their most intimate moments, eavesdropping on their innermost thoughts. And however thoroughly the novelist establishes her characters’ motivations, however robustly she forges her chains of cause and effect everything that happens ultimately does so at the whim of the writer. Certain things have to happen for the narrative to progress… Every novel is haunted by a tyrannical poltergeist, in the form of its plot.” from “Poltergeist: The Little Stranger” by Thomas Jones, London Review of Books 9 July 2009
In Britain, a civilization so old that it’s nearly impossible not to be walking on a grave, it’s no surprise that fictional ghosts are abundant. From The Woman in White down to the The Woman in Black, the ghost story is a literary staple, and it’s taken comedy turns in novels by contemporary writers including Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker.
In Canada, however, where bones underfoot are less common and those discovered often hearken back to colonial atrocities, our ghosts are not so playful. Something is extra-unnatural about the supernatural in Canadia …
"I’ve never met a senior citizen I didn’t like. Cranky, kind, loud-mouthed, timid, I don’t really care. They’re always fascinating to me. In my new book, Natural Order, I’ve indulged my love of seniors with a host of elderly characters. Here are some other CanLit novels that also feature old folks."
BRIAN FRANCIS' first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist. He has worked as a freelance writer for a variety of magazines and newspapers. In 2000, Francis received the Writers' Union of Canada's Emerging Author Award. He lives in Toronto.
Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot
"Honest to God, we’re just old, we’re not morons.”
Barfoot’s 2008 novel was many things: funny, sad, honest and pointed. Set in a retirement lodge, Exit Lines centres around four residents who find an ability to bond with one another in surroundings that would challenge the best of us. In spite of that (or because of it), they discover the preciousness of their own lives.