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Bookworm Request: Montreal and Toronto Reads

September 19, 2012


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I’m going to cheekily ignore my recent absence and jump back into blogging with a favour to ask of y’all. I’m planning a fall trip, which includes a week in Canada (my first time other than Niagara Falls) and visits to Montreal and Toronto. Unlike when I began blogging, I now read Canadian authors quite regularly, but not all of them are actually set in Canada. And while I’ve read quite a few Toronto authors, I’m not nearly so well acquainted with Montreal ones. So! I thought I’d harness the power of the blogosphere to get together a little pre-trip reading list.

I did do a little bit of library catalogue browsing last night and have holds requests for the following books:

  • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood
  • Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant
  • Anomaly by Anne Fleming
  • The Heart Specialist by Claire Rothman
  • Sleep On, Beloved by Cecil Foster
  • Free Reign by Rosemary Aubert
  • Except the Dying by Maureen Jennings
  • Death of a Sunday writer by Eric Wright
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

But other than that, I’m wide open to suggestions!

Also, if any of you will be in Montreal or Toronto during the last week of October, e-mail me to see if we can figure out a meet-up!

I’ll be back to posting about books tomorrow: I just wanted to give myself some more time in a vain attempt to do justice to The Brides of Rollrock Island.

P.S.: A sampling of what I did during my month-long break:

  • Spent more time in a hospital than I have in ages when my niece ended up in one, including a twenty-four stint I’d like to never repeat (I was shocked at just how unhealthy food and beverage options are in a health-oriented place). Niece is fine, btw, and never had a life-threatening condition, just a deeply unpleasant one.
  • Moved to a different, larger room on the other side of my house (my sister and niece moved out) and began the cleaning/decorating/etc. that goes with that. My parents surprised me with a new bookcase! I’ll share pictures when I get it set up.
  • Got all my hair chopped off again in my ongoing quest for a Mary Margaret Blanchard style pixie. And no, it’s still not quite there. But I’m getting closer!
  • Took over the meal planning/shopping/cooking, which has been fun for both myself and my mom. I feel like I’m earning my keep, and she gets real food during her study breaks (she’s returned to college).
  • Built a taller desk with my dad so that I can spend more time typing with less pain. Just finished it yesterday, hence my return to blogging! It should be regular again, but I’m resisting the urge to make any firm promises.

How did everyone else spend the last month of summer?

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2012 1:56 pm

    Ooh. Hope you have a good trip. Sounds like fun. :)

  2. September 19, 2012 2:29 pm

    Nice to see you back posting again!
    Camilla Gibb’s The Petty Details of So-And-So’s Life takes partly place in Toronto.
    At least some (maybe all, I don’t know) of Kathy Reichs’ crime novels take place in Montreal.
    Then there’s also the acclaimed Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill that’s set in Montreal.

    I also had a blogging break and just started posting again after 4 months!!

  3. September 19, 2012 2:30 pm

    Where to start with my recommendations? There are so many great books set in Montreal! I loved Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham and The Watch That Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler and The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy are both classics. Maybe also try Michel Tremblay’s The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  4. September 19, 2012 5:02 pm

    It sounds like you had a really great month! I don’t have any recommendations for you but I am excited for you for the trip! Sounds awesome.

  5. September 19, 2012 6:18 pm

    Long hospital visits are a nightmare, aren’t they? You start loathing other people’s cell phone ringtones and living off of Subway sandwiches because they’re the healthiest thing in that joint. I’m glad that’s over and your niece is doing better!

    I don’t have any Canada books to recommend BUT I read this book called Tell the Wolves I’m Home that I think you would like. It’s a first novel, a bit rough, but it’s awfully good. So you could get that instead.

    • September 25, 2012 7:59 pm

      Jenny!!! You are back from your blogging break!!! *happy dance*

      Subway sandwiches would have been wonderful compared to the choices I had in the basement cafeteria. :o At least niece had a private room, so didn’t have to deal w a lot of other people’s noises (except the poor kid next door who must’ve had same awful procedure done around midnight, 1 am, judging by the screaming/wailing).

  6. September 19, 2012 6:28 pm

    No suggestions unfortunately, but you know I’m excited as all get out about your trip!!!!! :D :D :D

    So sorry about your niece. :( Hope she’s feeling 110% now!!! And yeah, hospital stays are no fun even when your not the patient–been there with all three of the munchkins.

    Hooray for your Dad for building you a new desk! Dying to see pics of it and all the rest of your new room!

  7. Nora from Ottawa permalink
    September 19, 2012 7:02 pm

    Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan, set in Montreal.
    I’ll try to think of another one or two.

  8. September 19, 2012 7:46 pm

    The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon is set in Montreal and ties in The Epic of Gilgamesh which you might like.
    Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa takes place in Newfoundland and Toronto and centers around immigrant life in Canada.
    Those are the two that came to mind right away. Glad to see you back!

  9. September 19, 2012 9:34 pm

    As a mother, I will tell you that you ‘earn your keep’ by being on this earth! You are the greatest gift your mother has. Believe me.
    And I love the desk.
    And I love it that you want to read all these books about where you are going.
    And I wish I were going to be in one of those places just to be in your company.
    Have fun. Montreal is a wonderful city. A little bit of Europe. I think you will love it.

    • September 25, 2012 8:01 pm

      You are such a sweetheart Nan! My mom tells me the same thing, but it’s nice to be able to give back too. I think I’ll love Montreal too: I wish I had longer to be there!

  10. September 19, 2012 9:50 pm

    For a book set in Toronto, try The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky (Karen Tulchinsky), which covers several decades from the 1930s onward.

  11. September 19, 2012 10:19 pm

    You *must* read The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant, by Michel Tremblay. Best Montreal novel ever. /sweeping claim

    The Favourite Game, by Leonard Cohen, is a very interesting look at childhood in Montreal as well.

    If it carries extra weight, I lived there for five years so I know the city pretty well.

  12. September 19, 2012 10:23 pm

    Oh Eva! If you’re in Montreal, let me know what days and I can try to meet you!!! It’s only two hours by train from Ottawa to Montreal :-) and that would be a fabulous reason to go! :-) I’ll email you.

    Hmm, books set in Montreal or Toronto – Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is set in Toronto and a fantasy world. It’s really good, one of my favourite series. Lots of people have mentioned the classics – Hugh MacLennan, and Mordecai Richler, and Kathy Reichs for Montreal, and Margaret Atwood for Toronto. I’ll see who else I can think of….I think some of The Diviners by Margaret Laurence is set in Toronto (another good Canadian novel).

    I’m sorry that you and your niece had to spend that time in the hospital, though very glad to hear it wasn’t life-threatening.

    Very happy to hear that your dad helped build a higher desk for you! Yaay! I’ve missed you.

  13. Alanna permalink
    September 20, 2012 6:01 pm

    I highly recommend Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals if you haven’t read it already. This book is amazing!! Enjoy your trip :)

  14. September 20, 2012 10:35 pm

    Glad to see you back around, Eva! Sounds like an eventful month! I am sure I could come up for some suggestions for you. I wish I was going to be that far West in October!

    • September 25, 2012 8:02 pm

      I’m fascinated by Nova Scotia, so maybe one day I’ll be able to visit your neck of the woods! :D

      • September 25, 2012 8:03 pm

        Hey! We’re trying to organize a great big get together next July near there Eva… You should join :D This run, and also just general blogger hangouts! http://notsincemoses.com/

  15. September 21, 2012 5:02 am

    Welcome back!

    From the 18th – 28th of October there is the IFOA (International festival of authors) might be worth checking out to see. As for some good book suggestions, take a look at the Giller Longlist, some good books there. Jane Urquhart and Alice Munro are both well checking out.

  16. September 22, 2012 9:37 am

    I know what you mean about The Brides of Rollrock Island! I’m trying to write a review for it too. I’m going to suggest Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef. It’s non-fiction and all about what you can find around the city.

  17. Nadia Sheikh permalink
    September 23, 2012 3:15 pm

    So…I have never ever left a comment here before but I have been reading your blog for years. I am a complete fangirl and I live in Montreal. I would absolutely love love love to meet you. You can send me an email if you are interested….As for books, well being South Asian I have a particular love for South Asian writers – one that I can think of would of course be Rohinton Mistry – I have a feeling though that you might have come across that one already. Others that Mordecai Richler who is actually from Montreal. I also love Timothy Findley and Robertson Davies – probably also who you have heard about. If you are fluent in French – there are some francophone writers as well…let me know if you are interested

    • September 25, 2012 8:15 pm

      I’ll e-mail you! :) I’m not fluent in French, but I can read at an intermediate level. :) I have read Mistry, but only his most famous (A Fine Balance). Thanks for the comment; it’s lovely to ‘meet’ you virtually and hopefully we’ll get to meet up face to face next month!

  18. September 23, 2012 9:40 pm

    Missed you! Glad you are back! As part of my own Old Books Reading Challenge I’ve been reading an anthology called Great Canadian Short Stories. It was published in 1971 and it’s so old it doesn’t contain any from Margaret Atwood!
    Have fun on your trip!

  19. September 24, 2012 9:48 am

    For Montreal: Rawi Hage’s Cockroach, about an immigrant to Canada. Plays with the two solitudes theme of the Canadian French/English divide.

    There’s a book called Imagining Toronto about its literature and geography. The author, a prof at York who teaches in the geography department but is very involved in literary circles, is at work on her second book. Amy Lavender Harris.

    I live in Toronto. I’d love to meet and show you around. Maria Tatar is speaking at the Osbourne Children’s Library on October 25. 8:00-9:00 pm. Free. Are you here for that? I think you have my email.

    • September 25, 2012 8:04 pm

      Oh I wish I’d be there for Tatar! I loved the book of hers I read (which I got from library), and she graciously offered me a copy after coming across my blog post. She seems lovely. But I’ll be in Montreal them. I’ll e-mail you about TOronto details. :) (Oh and I put in an ILL request for Imagining Toronto: sounds v good!)

      • September 26, 2012 10:02 am

        Great. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

      • October 10, 2012 6:37 pm

        Nathalie mentioned that you’d posted about this, so I’m just popping by to express my shared excitement that you’re heading this way. It would be lovely to meet up, but I’m betting that your schedule will get unwieldy quickly!

        She mentioned the first book that I thought of (it’s stuffed with other recommendations) but the next is City of Words (publisher’s page here).

        And, finally, Greg Gatenby’s Toronto: A Literary Guide, which divides the city into sections and gives specific addresses of significant locations; it’s older now but still valuable for historical research of places you might like to visit (e.g. where specific authors lived/wrote and where books were set).

        Enjoy your planning for both cities: that’s (almost) the best part!

  20. September 24, 2012 11:18 am

    Urgh, hospitals. :( I’m glad your niece is all right now.

    Have you read HEADHUNTER by Timothy Findley? It’s a Toronto novel that alludes to both Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS and Scott’s THE GREAT GATSBY.

    I’m totally lacking in Montreal-book recommendations, alas. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel set there.

  21. September 24, 2012 9:33 pm

    Argh, don’t read Hugh Maclennan…snoozefest! ;) Though I do love Gwethalyn Graham’s “Earth & High Heaven” for a more historical view, and second the recs for Michel Tremblay. His memoir Birth of a Bookworm is also wonderful!

    Modern Montreal novels I’ve enjoyed lately include Sean Dixon’s “Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal”, Nicolas Dickner’s “Nikolsi”, and Michel Basilieres “Black Bird”. I’ll let you know if any others come to mind…

  22. September 25, 2012 1:57 pm

    I am SO LOOKING FORWARD TO HANGING OUT! ahem, I’m a bit excited sorry for the yelling :) One book set in Toronto – near me actually – that I really enjoyed was Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall :)

  23. September 25, 2012 8:06 pm

    Thanks to everyone for the reading suggestions! Now to see which ones my library has and which ones I’ll need to ILL. :D

  24. September 25, 2012 9:18 pm

    Eva. Another Montreal suggestion. The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal, by Afua Cooper. History with a specific section of creation of Montreal, and where the slave Angelina lived and probably started the massive fire in 1734. By a black woman historian intent on telling Canada’s black history. I have a review. She talks explicitly about what is left from then. And its a good read.

  25. September 28, 2012 2:17 pm

    I have to echo Claire’s recommendation of Earth and High Heaven, which has been likened to a Canadian version of To Kill a Mockingbird (but quite different). It is hard to find authors who’ll actually set a book in a Canadian city like Toronto or Montreal! I loved The Amazing Absorbing Boy which is contemporary and reads like you’re on the street – so many landmarks! I really enjoyed The Parabolist by Nicholas Ruddock which was set in Toronto in the 60s. I haven’t read this yet but I think Consolation by Michael Redhill came to me highly recommended.

    For Montreal authors, try GaĆ©tan Soucy – I think The Immaculate Conception was set in Montreal but I haven’t read it yet so I could be wrong! – oh and Lullabies for Little Criminals. Oh wait, I’ve got the perfect book for you: Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall, it’s an LGBT novel set during the 90s when Quebec held their referendum about splitting from the rest of Canada. I think The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler is set in Montreal (haven’t read it yet either – eek, so behind on the TBR!)

    I’m always in Toronto! Except those weekends I’m at the lake. You’ll probably love Montreal more than Toronto; I’m so very hard on Toronto I know. ;)

  26. October 2, 2012 7:59 am

    I just finished a book by Canadian author Louise Penny, called Still Life, which is set just outside of Montreal in an area called the Eastern Townships. It’s a murder mystery, but you learn a lot about the cultural situation in Quebec between French and English speakers.
    Have a great trip to Montreal! If you were coming to Ottawa, I’d definitely offer you a place to stay (even if you don’t know me)!

  27. October 4, 2012 6:08 pm

    Hi Eva! I recommend Stunt by Claudia Dey, which is like a love song to Toronto. I could possibly meet with you in Toronto if our schedules coincide! Email me! :D

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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