Recommended Readings

Great Novels on Canadian History

Pre-Confederation

Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace (1996)

  • A woman in Upper Canada murders her employer (19th century).

Brian Moore, Black Robe (1985).

  • A novel about the encounter between Jesuit missionaries and the Huron in the 1600s.

Suzanne Desrochers, Bride of New France (2011).

  • The filles du roi and their experience of life in New France.

Pauline Holdstock, Into the Heart of the Country (2011).

  • English fur traders and Native women in the 18th

Margaret Elphinstone – Voyageurs (2003)

  • When a Quaker woman goes missing just before the War of 1812, he brother ventures into the Canadian wildnerness to find her.

David Cruise and Alison Griffiths, Vancouver (2003).

  • The history of the city of Vancouver through a series of fictional characters.

Michael Crummy, The River Thieves (2002).

  • a British naval officer arrives in Newfoundland in 1810 with orders to make contact with the elusive Beothuk “Red Indians.”

Paul Almond – The Deserter (2010)

Paul Almond – Survivor (2011)

Paul Almond – Pioneer (2011)

  • Three volumes of the Alford Saga, which will chronicle over 200 years of Canadian history beginning with the stories of the country’s pioneer settlers in the early 19th century.

Bernard Assiniwi – The Beothuk Saga (2002)

  • Novelist’s imagination of Beothuk history divided into three parts: the first covers encounters with Viking explorers, the second deals with the tense relationship between the Beothuk and Portuguese, French, and Basque fishermen, and the final examines the life of the last living Beothuk, Shanawdithit, who died in 1829.

Jane Urquhart – Away (1993)

  • a family’s move from the Irish coast during the famine, to Gross Ile quarantine, to a new life on the Canadian shield.

Marie Jakober – The Halifax Connection (2007)

  • Canadian counter-intelligence and romance novel that focuses on 1860s Montreal and Halifax

Fred Stenson – The Trade (2010)

  • the experiences of a group of young men who travel into the unmapped lands of the Blackfoot-speaking First Nations in search of beaver pelts

Bernice Morgan – Random Passage (1992)

  • novel told from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old about a British family starting over in Newfoundland.

Douglas Glover – Elle (2007)

  • adventures of a young French women marooned during Cartier’s last attempt to settle the new world.

Rudy Wiebe – A Discovery of Strangers (1995)

  • Encounters between the Dene and the British during the Franklin expedition.

Beth Powning – The Sea Captain’s Wife (2010)

  • a girl grows up in the Bay of Fundy dreaming of going to sea. But when she marries a sea captain thinking to fulfill her dream, her hopes are soon dashed and she is forced to adapt.

Lawrence Hill – The Book of Negroes (2007)

  • a child’s journey from Western Africa to the United States around the time of the Revolutionary War. As part of the terms following the end of the war, she registers her name in the Book of Negroes and moves to Nova Scotia. Eventually she ends up in Sierre Leone, and then London.

Alistair MacLeod – No Great Mischief (1999)

  • a story within a story, tells the history of a fictional family that fled Scotland after Culloden and established a new clan MacDonald in Nova Scotia.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton – The Clockmaker (1961/2010)

  • satirical look at politics and social habits in 1830s Nova Scotia.

Farley Mowat – The Farfarers: A New History of North America (2011)

  • a non-historian’s attempt to rewrite the history of Viking settlers in North America

Post-Confederation

Rudy Wiebe, The Temptations of Big Bear (1973)

– About the plains Indian chief.

Joy Kogawa, Obasan (1981)

– Japanese Canadians in British Columbia.
Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion (1987)

– A boy from the Canadian wilderness finds his way in Toronto in the 1920s.

Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Englishman’s Boy (1996).

Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Last Crossing (2003).

Guy Vanderhaeghe, A Good Man (2011).

– Three great novels about the Canadian west in the late 19th century: newcomers, metis, Native peoples.

Anne-Marie MacDonald, Fall on Your Knees (1996)

– Set largely in a Cape Breton coal mining community, ranging through four generations, this novel focuses on the Piper sisters and their troubled relationship with their father, James. A novel of racial tensions, isolation, passion.

Anne-Marie MacDonald, The Way the Crow Flies (2003)

– An extraordinary re-creation of family life and the cold war in Canada in the third quarter of the 20th century.

Donna Morrissey, Sylvanus Now (2005)

– A young Newfoundland fisherman struggles to survive as the cod fishery collapses.

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries (1993).

– One of the greatest Canadian novels: the life of a woman in the 20th century.

Margaret Lawrence, The Stone Angel (1964)

– A portrait of a remarkable woman and her life-long journey towards self-understanding.

Jane Urquhart, The Stone Carvers (2001)

– Memories of the First World War and the men who built the Vimy Memorial.

W.O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind (1947)

– The classic evocation of the prairies.

Gabrielle Roy, The Tin Flute (1947)

– A great novel about working-class family life in Montreal.

Wayne Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1999)

– The history of Newfoundland in the 20th century, told through a fictionalized life of the province’s first premier, Joey Smallwood.

Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959).

– A classic tale of coming of age on Montreal’s St. Urbain Street; a story of ambition, dreams, and familial love.

Sinclair Ross, As For Me and My House (1941)

– One of the great Canadian novels. Mrs Bentley’s story – her life amid drought and poverty in the 1930s.

Jack Hodgins, Broken Ground (1998).

– Soldier-settlers in B.C. after the First World War. One of B.C.’s best-known writers.

Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road (2005).

– A new epic of the First World War; trench warfare and snipers on the western front/Ojibway hunters.

Sheldon Currie, The Glace Bay Miners’ Museum (1979).

  • A young woman in a Cape Breton coal mining town.

Richard Wright, Clara Callan (2002).

  • The lives of two women in the Depression of the 1930s.

John Marlyn, Under the Ribs of Death (1990).

  • A boy grows up in the immigrant communities of Winnipeg’s North End.

Ami McKay, The Birth House (2003)

  • story of a midwife in early 20th-century Nova Scotia irresistible.

Jamie Zeppa – Every Time We Say Goodbye (2011)

  • family saga set in Sault Ste. Marie from the Depression to the 1970s

Cathy Marie Buchanan – The Day the Falls Stood Still (2007)

  • love story set against the backdrop of Niagara Falls in the early part of the 20th century. This novels is a personal story that deals with themes of war, class, and the environment.

Freda Jackson’s For a Modest Fee (2010)

  • nurse and midwife, travels with her father to Aspen Coulee, Alberta, in 1907.  After he dies of a heart attack, she and other local women are left to transform the fledgling pioneer town into a more civilized place.

Paul Almond – The Deserter (2010)

Paul Almond – Survivor (2011)

Paul Almond – Pioneer (2011)

  • Three volumes of the Alford Saga, which will chronicle over 200 years of Canadian history beginning with the stories of the country’s pioneer settlers in the early 19th century.

Peter Behrens – The O’Briens (2011)

  • man’s coming of age in a new century in remote Pontiac County, Quebec, with his two brothers and two sisters by his side, spanning the construction of the Canadian railroad as well as both world wars.
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