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Shattering Effects: Living With Violence and War

Peacekeeper’s Daughter is the astonishing story of a French-Canadian military family stationed in Israel and Lebanon in 1982-1983. Told from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl, Peacekeeper’s Daughter parchutes the reader into the Lebanese Civil War, the Palestinian crisis, and the wave of terrorism—including the bombing of the American Embassy—that ravaged Beirut at the height of the siege. This novelistic memoir moves from Jerusalem to Tiberius, from the disputed No-Man’s Land of the Golan Heights to Damascus, and on to Beirut by way of Tripoli, crossing borders that remain closed to this day.

In this list, Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt shares five works of fiction and five memoirs about terrorism and war.

*****

Rue des Rosiers, by Rhea Trebegov

Winner of the Nancy Richler Award for fiction, Rue des Rosiers is an engrossing historical coming-of-age story with a timely examination of hatred’s long consequences. The novel is set in Toronto, Winnipeg and Paris in the spring and summer of 1982. Its 25-year-old protagonist, Sarah Levine, finds …

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Eavesdropping on Other Lives, Real and Imagined

Most of the books I write are set at least partly in the past, so my reading often takes me back—back into social history and into novels and poems written or set historically. It can be research, but since these are also the type of books I love, work becomes a pleasure. (I try not to think about the pleasure being partly work.)

As a writer, I’m preoccupied with why things happen. How did we get where we find ourselves? We all know the answer sometimes lies in the moment. Impulse. But of course we often act out of long-term beliefs, traumas or societal expectations, whether we’re fulfilling them or fighting them. These eight books by Canadian authors have taken me deep into the question of "Why?"

I also love the way they let me eavesdrop on other lives, real and imagined, since eavesdropping is surely part of reading, too.

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They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada, by Cecil Foster

Cecil Foster is a distinguished academic, and his meticulously-researched book about the lives and struggles of Black …

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Crime Fiction, True Crime, Historical Mysteries, and History

Enter for your chance to win a copy of The Keening on our Giveaways Page!

My first eleven books are known as the Collins-Burke mystery series, revolving around the trials and tribulations of my two main characters. Monty Collins is a Halifax criminal lawyer who lets off steam by singing in his blues band, Functus. Father Brennan Burke is priest whose family emigrated from Ireland to New York City under a cloud. Burke is now a choirmaster in Halifax, but aside from his musical brilliance he is hardly a choirboy. He is fond of a drink, uses salty language, and has occasionally let a pretty face compromise his vows, but he stays the course as a priest of God. Monty and Brennan sometimes work together, and sometimes inadvertently against each other, as they try to solve the murders that happen on their turf.

My new book is a departure from the series. The Keening: A Mystery of Gaelic Ireland is a stand-alone historical novel. I’ll be returning to the Collins-Burke series for my future novels!

Like any other writer, I love reading! I read a lot of history, philosophy, politics and, of course, good fiction. My list here includes some of my favourite genres, books that I have enjoyed or that have influenced my own writing: crime fiction, true crime, historical mysteries, …

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Books that Bring the Past to Life

"Music and hope navigate the treacherous waters of the pre-war period in this detailed, well-researched novel about perseverance and the power of self-discovery," writes bestseller Genevieve Graham about Claudette on the Keys, the debut novel by Joanne Culley.

In this list, Culley recommends her own favourites by Genevieve Graham, along with other historical fiction gems.

*****

The Forgotten Home Child, by Genevieve Graham

About the book: This fictional account of the Barnardo Home Children is based on true stories discovered during the author's interviews with former Barnardo children who came to North America from the British Isles as well as their descendants.

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Rabbit Foot Bill, by Helen Humphreys

About the book: A gripping book about a relationship between a young boy and an older free-spirited man on the prairies after the Second World …

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The Chat with Kathleen Winter

Kathleen Winter_ © Roger LeMoyne

Undersong is garnering rave reviews. Janet Somerville, writing in the Toronto Star, says the novel is "compelling, gracefully written, poignant and profound ... a stunning, spellbinding, poetic triumph." A starred review in Quill & Quire calls the novel "luminous" and "consistently elegant and original."

Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the Orange Prize, and numerous other awards. It was also a Globe and Mail "Best Book," a New York Times "Notable" book, a Quill & Quire "Book of the Year" and a #1 bestseller in Canada. It has been published and translated worldwide. Her Arctic memoir Boundless (2014) was shortlisted for Canada's Weston and Taylor non-fiction prizes, and her last novel Lost in September (2017) was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. Born in the UK, Winter now lives in Montreal after many years in Newfoundland.

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undersong

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Quick Hits: 5 Gems You Don't Want to Miss

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

 

Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, by Norma Dunning

Genre: Short stories

Publisher: University of Alberta Press

What It's About

I woke up with Moses Henry’s boot holding open my jaw and my right eye was looking into his gun barrel. I heard the slow words, “Take. It. Back.” I know one thing about Moses Henry; he means business when he means business. I took it back and for the last eight months I have not uttered Annie Mukluk’s name.

In strolls Annie Mukluk in all her mukiness glory. Tonight she has gone traditional. Her long black hair is wrapped in intu’dlit braids. Only my mom still does that. She’s got mukluks, real mukluks on and she’s wearing the old-style caribou parka. It must be something her grandma gave her. No one makes that anymore. She’s got the faint black eyeliner showing off those brown eyes and to top off her face she’s put pretend face tattooing on. We all know it’ll wash out tomorrow.

— from "Annie Muktuk"

When Se …

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Be Transported with Historical Fiction

Book Cover Daughter of Black Lake

Some books take us to another time and place. We smell woodsmoke and feel homespun against our skin. We hear the clang clang clang of a blacksmith at work in his forge. The world of the book appears as vividly to the reader as does her own reality. It’s what I strive for in my own work, including my latest novel, Daughter of Black Lake.

For my list, I’ve chosen historically set fiction where an author has shown mastery in transporting us to another time and place.

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Elizabeth Hay’s A Student of Weather tells the story of two prairie sisters in love with the same man. Though I read the novel two decades ago, I can still call up the 1930s dust bowl of the sisters’ childhood and the blizzard from which the sisters’ love interest appeared.

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Carol Shield’s The Stone Diaries is the fictional century-long biography of Daisy Goodwill Fl …

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Exploring Sister Bonds

One of our most anticipated debuts of the season, Bryn Turnbull's The Woman Before Wallis, tells the true story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson. But it's also the story of a pair of sisters, and in her recommended reading list for us, Turnbull explores other titles that illuminate this bond.

*****

The bonds between sisters can be loving, fraught, conflicted, and challenging—often, they’re all four at once. Compared to books about brothers, sister bonds may seem like a seldom-explored familial bond, but as the books below show, they’re an incredible source of inspiration for authors and readers alike.

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The Quintland Sisters, by Shelley Wood

The Dionne Quintuplets were a media sensation in the 1930s—the first five identical sisters to survive past birth, they were a symbol of optimism in depression-era North America, so much so that thousands of visitors would flock to North Bay to see the girls in their purpose-built nursery-cum-tourist-attraction. As doctors, politi …

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Launchpad: The War Widow, by Tara Moss

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The War Widow, by Tara Moss, described as "Retro noir with a gutsy heroine and atmospheric setting...vivid, page-turning historical crime."

*****

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

The war may be officially over, but stylish private investigator and former war reporter Billie Walker is plunged right back into the danger she thought she’d left behind in Europe, in this thrilling tale set in glamorous 1940s Sydney.

Describe your ideal reader.

Anyone who loves a good …

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The Chat with Laisha Rosnau

What happens when an author decides to create a novel based on the real lives of three reclusive women in early twentieth century BC? That’s the premise of Laisha Rosnau’s intriguing new novel, Little Fortress (Buckrider/Wolsak & Wynn).

In a starred review, Quill & Quire says “Rosnau has done a masterful job of using the lives of historical figures as the building blocks of a stunning work of fiction ...The narrative is utterly spellbinding.” 

Laisha Rosnau is the author of the best-selling novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow, and four collections of poetry, most recently, Our Familiar Hunger, recipient of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her first collection, Notes on Leaving, was the recipient of the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Prize and her work has been nominated for several awards, including the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and three times for CBC literary awards. Rosnau teaches at UBC Okanagan, and she and her family are resident caretakers of Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary where they live in Coldstream, BC.

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Trevor Corkum: Little Fortress follows the real-life story of three women living in exile in Vernon, BC, in the middle of the last century. Why was it so important for you to tell this story? And why explore it through fic …

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Journeys to Exile

Little Fortress is Laisha Rosnau's long-awaited second novel, following on acclaimed and award-winning poetry collections. In Little Fortress, Rosnau bases her fiction on real-life figures, Italian nobility escaping fascism in the 1930s and finding exile in Vernon, BC. With this recommended reading list, she suggests books that have informed and/or are akin to her own work. 

*****

Book Cover Caetani

Recapitulation: A Journey, by Sveva Caetani, edited by Heidi Thompson, Angela Gibbs Peart, and Dennis Butler

This is a beautiful, hardcover coffee table-sized book with gorgeous full-colour reproductions of Sveva Caetani’s 56 large, luminous watercolour paintings—“Recapitulation”—the series in which she portrayed her own life’s geographical, artistic, and spiritual journey. Based loosely on Dante’s Divine Comedy, the paintings are completely unique and utterly arresting. As well as reproductions of the paintings, the book contains original poetry of Caetani’s, notes and translations, and a short biography. Recapitulation is the way I was introduced to the stran …

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Jo Walton: 5 Stories Bound Up with History

 You've never read a historical treatment quite like a Jo Walton novel, which tend to leapfrog across and between genres in the most exciting way. Her latest is Lent, set in 15th-century Florence, and in this reading list, she recommends other books in which story and history are interwoven, a list whose eclecticism demonstrates the way fascinating way in which Walton's mind works to connect disparate things. 

*****

Book Cover One Way Street

Marian Engel's Monodromos or One Way Street (1973) is about a Canadian woman in Greece in the 1950s, dealing with her own past, with the historical past, with the uneasy cultural relationship between Europe and Canada, with the question of love, and with a quest to find the icon of the saint with the head of a dog. I first read it when I was working in Greece between school and university, and I have loved it ever since. It's feminist but set before second wave feminism, and it's a book that's revelatory of many layers of history, including the time it was written.

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