12 Days of CanLit: 11 Past Prose

We’re doing a spin on the classic holiday ditty, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with our 12 Days of CanLit series this holiday season. Sing along with our countdown of themed book picks, straight down to our number 1 (that’s 78 books in all!).On the second day of 12 Days of CanLit, All Lit Up highlights 11 Past Prose.


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We’re dusting off parchments and checking our pocket watches: it’s historical fiction day on this second day of our reads roundup. With each turn of the page, you can take a hearty sniff and proclaim, “Man! This takes me back!”
by David Lester (Arbeiter Ring)
The Listener begins in our time, with a man dying during a political act inspired by a work of art. The artist flees to Europe, where death reigned over seventy-five years before under the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. Author David Lester tells these two stories in tandem, each saturated with the notions of art and power, in a beautifully illustrated graphic novel.
by Barbara Sapergia (Coteau Books)
This book tells of the fictional Taras Kalyna, and his time in the real but little-known Banff-Castle Mountain internment camp, located in Alberta during the First World War. While other Canadians bought Victory Bonds or went off to war, Ukrainian-Canadians like Taras were imprisoned, in terrible conditions, to work on the highway from Banff to Lake Louise.
by Ray Smith (Biblioasis)
Set in Waltherrott, Germany, in 1980, 1848, and then the late 1340s, A Night at the Opera is a madcap excursion through upheaval, revolution, and pestilence, in a cavalcade of fools and knaves, grouches and maniacs, frumps and tarts, heroes and clowns.
by Anne MacDonald (Thistledown Press)
Set around the time of Canadian Confederation in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, To the Edge of the Sea follows two brothers on the coast, Alex and Reggie, and in contrast, Mercy Coles, immersed in Charlottetown society. Despite their differing personalities and circumstances, all three are torn between what they want and what they feel.
by Garry Ryan (NeWest Press)
When eighteen-year-old Sharon Lacey travels from Canada to England in 1940, she does so in the hopes of finding her distant father. Instead, as a gifted flier, she gets swept up in the British war effort to guard the country from the Luftwaffe. Ryan, an award-winning mystery novelist, expertly sets the scene of a war-torn and panic-stricken England, and the heroine that does her part to try and protect it.
by S. Noél McKay (Inanna Publications)
Not one to be told she can’t, main character of Stony Point Lucille heads to the novel’s titular locale in the Northwest Territories after her sister’s husband goes missing. What she discovers is a town under the thumb of a ruthless mine owner, who has both the town’s law enforcement and business community at his disposal. Lucille’s fight goes from a personal quest to a struggle against corruption at the turn of the 20th century.
by Mark Sinnett (ECW Press)
Set in the aftermath of Toronto’s Hurricane Hazel in 1954, The Carnivore follows Ray Townes, a young police officer who becomes a local hero after tales of his deeds during the hurricane spread. Meanwhile, his wife, a nurse also embroiled in assisting Torontonians during the storm, begins to doubt her husband after a patient tells her a disturbingly peculiar – but no less vivid – version of events.
by Linda Little (Roseway Publishing)
It is the late 1800s when Penelope marries Ewan MacLaughlin, and moves to their new, shared home, a lonely mill. Ewan is tempermental when he is not absent, leaving Penelope to run the household and the mill herself. With little to give her grandchildren other than the protection she afforded them, she begins to tell her granddaughter of her life with “this is the story of how you were loved.”
by Jean Rae Baxter (Ronsdale Press)
This first instalment of Jean Rae Baxter’s YA United Empire Loyalist series stars teenaged Charlotte, forced to flee her home in the Mohawk Valley at the onset of the American Revolution. Tensions mount when her sweetheart, Nick, reveals himself sympathetic to the revolutionaries, while Charlotte herself is a staunch loyalist.
by Margaret Duley (Breakwater Books)
Itself published in 1939 (before some of our other Historical Fictions were set!), Cold Pastoral is the second novel by Newfoundland’s “first novelist”, Margaret Duley. The novel follows a woman’s life in pre-Confederation Newfoundland, and the rigid class differences between rural and urban Newfoundlanders.
by Ian Weir (Goose Lane Editions)
Set in London at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, this novel follows the eponymous Will, a war surgeon’s assistant, in his attempts to help his surgeon build a practice in the Cripplegate area of the city. Sardonic humour, scientific inquiry, and gothic horror blend together as Will liases with body snatchers and seeks a far darker truth.
We know you’ve been reading a lot about the past, so stay calm. You’re looking at a computer (or mobile device). It’s 2014. To help you get real, tomorrow’s ten picks are all stranger-than-fiction: we’re talking true stories. Missed the first day of 12 Days of CanLit? Never fear, you can catch up right here!