I know that most people are proud of their country in some way, but I think that overall, Canadians tend to be quite quiet about our love for Canada. We are not as showy or brash about our national pride as other countries, and as a result, I think we sometimes get forgotten about. Today I am sharing my 5 favourite books by Canadian authors to help you channel your own inner Canadian and celebrate this great country of mine! (Happy Canada Day, by the way- July 1 is ours!)
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.
An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories
I know that everyone is obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale due to the Hulu show absolutely blowing up (probably because of a random dystopian novel suddenly seems to be a very real and near possibility), but Margaret Atwood has written quite a few books. I think that everyone should read Alias Grace at some point in your life- while The Handmaid’s Tale gives a rather narrow view of it’s storyline that sometimes makes it difficult to keep up with, I think that most women can name at least 5 instances of someone not listening to them in favour of listening to a guy, and protagonist Grace Marks is the pretty much as extreme as that case can get. There was a 2017 adaptation of Alias Grace as well, done by CBC, that is worth the watch- but I would read the book first!
Still Life, Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
I have to admit, this is the only book on this list that I haven’t read myself- it is on my to-read list for this summer! Louise Penny is arguably one of the most popular Canadian mystery authors ever, and this Inspector Gamache series is widely-read, both in Canada and outside. Set in rural Quebec, the series follows the Inspector Gamache while he solves various mysteries in Three Pines (a fictional town). Something that draws me to this series is that it addresses the tensions and issues between Anglo- and Franco-Quebecers, as well as the fact that there are now 13 books in the series (in case you really want to get stuck in!
The Sky is Falling, Kit Pearson
It is the summer of 1940, and all of England fears an invasion by Hitler’s army. Norah lies in bed listening to the anxious voices of her parents downstairs. Then Norah is told that she and her brother, Gavin, are being sent to Canada. The voyage across the ocean is exciting, but at the end of it Norah is miserable. The rich woman who takes them in prefers Gavin to her, the children at school taunt her, and as the news from England becomes worse, she longs for home.
As Norah begins to make friends, she discovers a surprising responsibility that helps her to accept her new country.
This is one of my favourite books from my childhood- I find that children’s books really separate out into different countries, and that is a real shame. English children tend to read English books, American children read American books, and so on and so forth. I think that the further we get away from the World Wars, the more foreign it feels, especially for Canadians. Although many of us had grandparents and great-grandparents who fought in WWI and WWII, it really didn’t touch Canadian soil at all and so seems quite far away for us. Kit Pearson’s The Guests of War trilogy really puts into perspective how the war did affect Canadians, and especially how it affected children. It was one of the first books that I connected with that didn’t make the war seem entirely alien, and Norah is a delight to spend time with! (Pearson also has other books/series!)
Stories From the Vinyl Cafe, Stuart McLean
Like an old friend who’s turned up in town, Stuart McLean returns with Stories from the Vinyl Cafe, his bestselling collection of tales based on his enormously popular Vinyl Cafe radio program. The collection features Canada’s much-loved fictional family: Dave, Morley, Stephanie and Sam. Stories from the Vinyl Cafe also introduces a host of other wonderfully imagined characters, such as Margaret Dwyer, a suburban housewife who startles herself by shoplifting a pepperoni sausage, and Flora Perriton, who is consumed with thoughts of lost opportunities when an old friend passes away. Then there’s Ed, who-overcome by the death of his favourite rock star-embarks on a pilgrimage to New York City to meet the singer’s widow.
The Vinyl Cafe originally emerged as a radio show on CBC with McLean hosting, but eventually spread to The Vinyl Cafe book series, as well. All of the books are clever collections of funny, heartfelt, and thoughtful stories that look at the lives of ordinary people that we normally don’t think twice about! Dave and Morley’s family is possibly one of the funniest to read about, including some pretty fantastic Thanksgiving and Christmas stories, but we also read about other families and people, too. If you can, I would recommend listening to the audiobook version- Stuart McLean was one of the best hosts on radio period, and listening to him is a real treat. We lost Stuart in February 2017, and no one can fill his shoes.
Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
When Marilla Cuthbert’s brother, Matthew, returns home to Green Gables with a chatty redheaded orphan girl, Marilla exclaims, “But we asked for a boy. We have no use for a girl.” It’s not long, though, before the Cuthberts can’t imagine how they could ever do without young Anne of Green Gables–but not for the original reasons they sought an orphan. Somewhere between the time Anne “confesses” to losing Marilla’s amethyst pin (which she never took) in hopes of being allowed to go to a picnic, and when Anne accidentally dyes her hated carrot-red hair green, Marilla says to Matthew, “One thing’s for certain, no house that Anne’s in will ever be dull.” And no book that she’s in will be, either.
If someone makes a list of the best Canadian books and doesn’t include Anne of Green Gables, are they even Canadian??? No, the answer is no. When I recommend AoGG to people, I’m really recommending the entire series- there are six books in total, with Anne of Green Gables (number 1) and Anne of the Island (number 3) being two of my favourite books of all time. Anne Shirley, first 11 when we meet her, is an orphan that comes to live at Green Gables with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Her wild imagination encompasses all of us when we were 11 or 12 year old girls imagining everything possible. If you read all 6 books, you follow Anne from early adolescence to adulthood with a family, and it is a wonderful slow burn with true, meaningful character development. And in case you are wondering, I think that they are appropriate for readers of any age!
All book descriptions and covers are from Goodreads.com!
What is your favourite Canadian book?