At the beginning of each month I do a blog post based on a Goodreads group called ‘Play Book Tag’ where they choose a theme and then people share, discuss, recommend and review the books that fit the theme.
The theme for October was surprisingly not autumnal or spooky/ horror themed. Not unless you are terrified of Canadians.
In all honesty I’m hoping this is pretty obvious.
Canadian Literature (also known as CanLit) is literature from Canada.
Countries have a habit of being ‘known’ for things and when I think of Canada I must confess I think of the following:-
- Ice hockey
- Maple syrup
- Avenue Q’s ‘My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada’
My husband has been lucky enough to go to Canada for work a few times and I have yet to visit but believe me when I say it’s on the agenda!
In terms of Canadian Literature I feel like I don’t know a great deal and that’s embarrassing to admit. My brain goes automatically to one author and one author only and that is Margaret Atwood.
But, in my humble opinion, that’s a good offering. Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite writers and I included her in my auto-buy writer Top 5 because I will read what she writes without fail.
Not everything she writes is an instant love of mine and there have been a few books that I haven’t liked but the ones I love, I love hard. This isn’t a Margaret Atwood appreciation thread but I will make no secret of how much The Handmaid’s Tale impacted me as a person as well as a reader. Alias Grace is pretty darned awesome too.
But Canadian Literature is more than just one writer and it has a rich and varied history that encompasses the below:-
- French – Canadian
- Pre Confederation
It seems French-Canadian literature gained a boon post Second World War while before it was mainly English language literature that dominated. Pre Confederation literature appears to have been focused on the landscape and survival while Contemporary literature has picked up post 1967 with Alice Munro writing short stories that drew Canadian Literature to the world stage.
Apparently pre 1960’s Canadian Literature was seen as a footnote to British and American literature in terms of English language literature and it was with the arrival of some talented and prominent writers that really begun to turn things around.
Unfortunately I don’t know a great deal of Canadian Literature books but I have looked at authors. If we take each of the categories above we are looking at French-Canadian author Gabrielle Roy (of whom Margaret Atwood was a fan), Antonine Maillet and Roch Carrier who wrote The Hockey Sweater about the tensions between English and French Canada.
Personally I didn’t know there were tensions but it’s fascinating to read about other countries and their social/ cultural norms.
Pre Confederation authors include Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, who were both British born colonists writing about their experiences in Canada and the Contemporary writers include Alice Munro, Lawrence Hill and Margaret Atwood.
I have no idea how I didn’t know this but I did not know that Leonard Cohen was Canadian until today. I’m now going to have to include my favourite quote from him as homage:-
This is based off of the ‘Popular Canadian Books’ list on Goodreads which contains 1,250 entries. The top ten are: –
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
- The Book of Negroes by Margaret Atwood
- Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
- Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
The ones that were out of the top ten that I have heard are:-
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
It doesn’t appear that Alice Munro is in the top ten though she still features strongly throughout.
The question I always ask: What do I think?
Well it’s clear that Margaret Atwood is the darling! But again, as I’ve already stated, this is with good reason. She writes quality and her stories her interesting and varied. I have also learned that she is known as ‘Queen of CanLit’ and it’s easy to see this is the case.
Out of the six Margaret Atwood’s on the list I have read 3 although I have read more that aren’t on the top ten. I have also read Life of Pi (even though I didn’t realise that the author was Canadian!) and I haven’t read Room or Anne of Green Gables but I would like to.
I had no clue that The English Patient was Canadian Literature! I feel like I am learning a lot on this journey and so I’m really glad I do these book themes. It does make me feel so ignorant though.
Canada… you are stealthy. You produce quality content but seemingly very quietly.
The Handmaid’s Tale – I have a draft somewhere that is essentially a whole blog post about what The Handmaid’s Tale means to me which I keep meaning to polish up and post. I read this as an eighteen year old for my A-Levels at college and it blew me away. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if the events happened for real and sometimes when I watch world politics and news I wonder if its more feasible than we think.
Life of Pi – I adore this book but it makes me feel sad. I don’t think I had read a magical realism book before this one and so my eyes were opened to a whole new genre. It is rich with description and imagination and is so surreal at times that it is beautiful. I also appear to be fond of a ‘story within a story’ approach as Pi recounts the events of his life to officials who want to know what happened and the story switches between Pi and his tale. The ending/ twist (which I won’t spoil) packs a punch and makes you question everything with a sense of growing discomfort. When you go back and re-read sections knowing what you know, it hurts.
Room – this is a cheat as I haven’t read the book but I really want to. I could have put Alias Grace on here (because… yeah, awesome) but I already had a Maggie so I wanted to make my third different. Like I said… I haven’t read the book and I know it’s not the same but I watched the movie and was just punched in the gut emotionally ten to twelve hundred times.
What are your thoughts on the above? Any favourites? What are your thoughts on the top 10 most popular? Do you know of any other lists where 70% is made up of one author?
Let me know!