Sunday, March 15, 2020
Quick Lit: three good novels for a time of social distancing
I haven't linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for "Quick Lit" in a long time. But right now, with the coronavirus pandemic causing the cancellation of activities and the need to distance ourselves from others to prevent the spread, there really isn't a better time to read. Not that there is ever a bad time to read...
So if you're looking for some good fiction to get you through the next few weeks, here are the three novels I've read this year so far. BONUS: they are all by Canadian novelists!
(I'll do another post for nonfiction another day, just to spread things out.)
The Difference by Marina Endicott.
I may as well start with the best. The Difference (to be released in the US in a couple of months under the title The Voyage of the Morning Light) is one of the best novels I've read in a long time, maybe ever. Set in 1911, it is about a young girl named Kay who joins her older sister Thea and Thea's husband, the captain of a merchant ship, on a voyage from Nova Scotia to the far east. Kay has nightmares about a traumatic time she and Thea lived through in western Canada where, we come to find out, their father was head of a native residential school. Then an encounter with a boy on a small island in Micronesia changes all their lives, deepening Kay's questions about God, forgiveness, and the differences between people and between all creatures. The descriptions and settings are breathtaking, and the characters are unforgettable. The only negative thing about this book was that it had to end.
Five Wives by Joan Thomas.
Another great novel. This is a fictionalized account of the real-life story of five American missionaries (the best-known being Jim Elliot) who were killed by members of the Waorani people in Ecuador in 1956. Thomas imagines the events up to, including, and after the missionaries' deaths from the points of view of their wives; she also includes modern-day episodes about some of the missionaries' children and grandchildren (these parts are completely made-up, with invented names, etc.) and how these later generations reflect on the true impact the missionaries had in the lives of the Waorani. This novel really makes you think hard about Christian missionary efforts and the choices people make in the name of doing God's will. So good.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson.
My daughter Allison, knowing my great interest in The Crown television series, thoughtfully chose this book for me as a Christmas gift. It is a lovely novel about two young women, one English (Ann) and one French (Miriam), in postwar London. They work as embroiderers and are, to their great excitement, tasked with doing embroidery for Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress. The story is told from the perspectives of both women as well as that of Ann's granddaughter, who receives some pieces of embroidery when her grandmother dies and who goes to London to try to find out more about Ann's early life. If you like Kate Morton's novels, you'll probably like this one.