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Marissa Stapley's Perfect Dock-Side Reads

Book Cover Mating for Life

Looking for your big summer read? Then look no further than Marissa Stapley's Mating for Life, an absorbing novel of tangled family ties, with a Joni Mitchell soundtrack and a perfect cottage setting. It's a novel in which characters get up to their own summer reads, characters perching on the ends of their docks, paperbacks in hand. It's a ritual that Stapley knows something about, as she tells us here, sharing her own favourite setting for summer reading and some books that would make for great reading there.


Every July we rent a cottage in Muskoka. It’s a place my husband and I have been visiting since before we were married, and it’s the place I modeled the cottage in Mating for Life after. There are many ideal reading spots here, but my favourite is the end of the dock. (I sometimes imagine I’ll look up and over at the dock next door and my character Laurence will be sitting there, reading Junky, by William Burroughs.)

I know there are many other beautiful places in the world, but none touch me quite the way this property does. It feels accessible, like I belong in it, like I don’t have to leave it to go home because I already am home. Also, being Canadian, I understand how important it is to savour these moments of warmth under the sun. Too soon, we’ll be visiting the same lake and skating on frozen water, warming our hands by the fire, reading indoors rather than out.

Book Cover Friend of My Youth

I recently finished Friend of My Youth, by Alice Munro. I mentioned it to a friend, who sent me an old Entertainment Weekly review of the book (it was published in 1990) that said, “Sexual Secrets of the Canadians could have been the title of this collection of absorbing, beautifully written stories” because “it would have the advantage of stunning all those Americans who believe that Canadians don't have sex.” This made me laugh: I didn’t realize there were Americans who believed we didn’t have sex. Either way, Munro taps into concealed longings and strange desires with this collection, which makes it the perfect read for when you’re already feeling a little bit hot.

Book Cover The Blind Assasssin

In a similar vein of subversively sexy CanLit, Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin has everything: intrigue, sex, romance, politics—and science fiction. Plus, it’s full of those staggeringly great Atwood sentences that require the luxury of time to absorb. (Sentences like, “Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence.” Or, “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date.”) The Blind Assassin also feels to me like a love note to a Toronto that no longer exists. I enjoy reflecting on my city when I’m taking a break from it.

Book Cover Magnified World

Grace O’Connell’s Magnified World is also filled with the nameless longing I associate with summer, as well as expertly rendered glimpses of a Toronto that is familiar and mysterious at the same time.

Girl Who Was Saturday Night

The novel I’m saving for this summer’s lakeside reading sessions is The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, by Heather O’Neill. It’s set in Montreal, a city I’m looking forward to becoming more acquainted with while beside a northern lake far from city life of any kind.

Marissa Stapley is a writer and former magazine editor who contributes to ElleThe Globe and Mail, and The National Post, among others. She also teaches writing at the University of Toronto and editing at Centennial College. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young children.

July 3, 2014

Books mentioned in this post


Modern Classics Friend of My Youth

by Alice Munro
edition: Paperback
tagged: short stories (single author), psychological, literary

With an Introduction by Bonnie Burnard


In Friend of My Youth, Alice Munro dazzles with her finely nuanced depictions of the human heart. These 10 stories bring to life characters in a remarkable variety of times and places, as real and recognizable as ourselves.


The Blind Assassin

by Margaret Atwood
edition: Paperback
tagged: historical

“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”
Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister’s death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase family secrets. Among these is a novel …


Magnified World

by Grace O'Connell
edition: Paperback
tagged: contemporary women, literary, 21st century

A beautiful New Face of Fiction debut from a stunningly gifted young novelist about what it means to be a daughter, a patient, a lover and a human being who can carry on after a massive loss.
What's a girl supposed to do after her mother kills herself by walking into the Don River with her pockets full of unpolished zircon sto …


The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

by Heather O'Neill
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback
tagged: literary

From the author of the international bestseller Lullabies for Little Criminals, a coming-of-age novel set on the seedy side of Montreal’s St. Laurent Boulevard

Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on St. Laurent Boulevard. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny and infec …

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