Book Theme

Bookish: Book Theme – Canadian Literature

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.

canadian literature

canadian literature 2

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:-

  • Vancouver
  • Ice hockey
  • Maple syrup
  • Whistler
  • 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
  • Confederation
  • Contemporary

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: –

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  3. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  6. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  7. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  8. The Book of Negroes by Margaret Atwood
  9. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  10. 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!


15 thoughts on “Bookish: Book Theme – Canadian Literature

  1. Ahh I have so many things to say for this one!

    First of all, I LOVE you for thinking of Vancouver (and Whistler) and not Toronto. West coast is best coast. 😀

    Secondly, I may have gone “AHHH MY EYES!!” at your list of CanLit authors. 😛 We spent an entire year studying Canadian literature in my Grade 11 Honours class and we had to write a 20-page paper using at least 10 Canadian short fic/novels at the end of the year, so I had to read a LOT of those authors’ works. And some of them were good! But others were….a lot of wheat farming and weathering tornadoes in the prairies. And since you liked Alias Grace, I’m gonna recommend Timothy Findley’s books! He meshes speculative elements with “literary” ones super well, and Pilgrim and Headhunter were two of the favourites I read that year.

    We also have some really neat books written by First Nations authors! I recommend people read Green Grass, Running Water just for the sheer weirdness of it. It’s got talking coyotes!

    And YES I want to read your post on The Handmaid’s Tale!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so desperate to go to Vancouver it’s not even funny! It looks beautiful, as does Whistler. They look so charming and filled with personality!

      I don’t think I could handle wheat farming! But it’s strange because we were made to read a lot of English classics at school to the point where I just couldn’t stand some of the classics anymore and lots of other people love them. My darkest confession is the fact that I can’t stand Jane Eyre. There, I said it. Sometimes if you have to study something it beats the joy out.

      I will take anything that has talking *anything* in animal form!

      I started writing it in draft form and thought, ‘gosh this is long and ranty, no one will want to read this’ and put it on the back burner!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ohh you should totally visit sometime!! And I’m weirdly proud that you’re calling our city charming. 😀 An actor made a remark earlier this year about how boring he found Vancouver and everyone got so annoyed. It’s not…untrue, exactly–I mean, there are plenty other cities with more history and culture. But only *we* get to insult our own city. 😛 Whistler IS pretty wonderful, though!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s very much on the list! We don’t think we’re doing it next year so it will be for 2020 but me and my husband keep saying that we’ll do Vancouver and then travel down to Seattle and Portland. It’s very much discussed!

          My friend went to Vancouver a few years ago and she loved it.

          I know what you mean! The place where I live is not great, objectively speaking. It used to be an army/ squaddie town and they moved the army out a couple of years ago. The place is going through a rejuvenation but its currently still suffering under its reputation but it is getting there. I’ll say all sorts about it but the second someone else who doesn’t live there gets negative I get very defensive!


  2. Hahaha I knew this was going to be about Atwood before I opened the post. 😁 I obviously love the 2 books I’ve read from her, and I want to read Anne of Green Gables, and Room, the movie gutted me too. 😣 Other than that I’ve read nothing Canadian and don’t know anything about it except they’re nice, maple syrup, and my evil aunt lives in Ottawa. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She is very prolific! She came up everywhere when I looked into Canadian Literature, even in relation to authors who had nothing to do with her! I.e. she was inspired by them or she inspired others, but then when I love her books they do resonate with me strongly. I need to read Room, Brie Larson deserved her Oscar!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciated the style and content of Room, but there’s something I wasn’t keen on – can’t remember what – maybe I thought it was too long. I read the move tie-in book but not actually seen it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I only read Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, but that was great.
    I loved Anne of Green Gables (and basically the whole series) but also Road To Avonlea. Both the book and the tv series were awesome ❤

    I've never been to Canada, but i'd love to go, and i also think of maple syrup, and the fact that it must be super cold 😀 But then during summer i spoke to my colleague over there and he said it was almost 40 C degrees 😀 So i was wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anne seems like a real feel good story and I think there’s a new Netflix show so I might check it out!

      I’m desperate to go to Canada but I want to go in spring or autumn because I’m rubbish with extremes! As in, I whinge and act pathetic and everyone wants to kill me!


      1. Uhh, i wouldn’t go when it’s really cold either 😀

        The Anne series on Netflix is really good! I read online that some people complained that it’s “darker” than the book. I read the book when i was 12, so i don’t remember everything, but i think it’s pretty close to the series. I think in the series they put some emphasis of showing Anne’s earlier life, which was not very nice as an orphan.

        Liked by 1 person

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