What’s the best Canadian novel ever? A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the fact that not one Canadian novel had made a list of the best 100 novels of all time. And I asked for your ideas.
You came through. I was deluged with suggestions. So here are some of your nominations — from high-school students to a 91-year-old with an eye for a great read. You guys know your CanLit.
Allison Vanleeuwen, on behalf of the students of Claremont and the English department:
“The students of Claremont Secondary prefer Yann Martel’s Life of Pi to any other Canadian novel in our library.”
“I’d like to nominate Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business.
“I’ve been re-reading it now for 43 years. The narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, is heroic and the winner of a Victoria Cross, but what makes him so fascinating is his penetrating eye for human behaviour.
“Still, making lists of ‘;the 100 best books of all time’ is kind of inane, anyway, unless one is conversant with every language from Finnish to Urdu to Welsh.”
“I’m a huge fan of many Canadian authors. Margaret Laurence and Mordecai Richler are favourites. Choose one? Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.”
James A. Rogers:
“Now that I am 91, it is rare indeed for me to be writing to the press. But I couldn’t resist your invitation for nominations for books to be included in the best 100 Canadian novels. Particularly since I doubt you’ve heard of my choice.
“It is The Rock in the Water by Bill Conall, published in 2009. It’s got humour throughout, plus some lovely phrasing.
“A truly delightful book.”
“May I submit a rare gem of Canadian literature? It is called The Lark in the Clear Air by Dennis Sears.
“Briefly, it is the story of a young Alberta lad who, after being tragically orphaned, transports some horses to the east. There, he searches and finds an irascible uncle who farms in a mythical setting in northern Ontario.
“If you have not read this book, I promise you a Great Canadian Novel.”
Sandy O’Reilly, now in Victoria, lately of Shanghai:
“How can you choose a ‘;best’ book? Impossible to my mind. Isn’t the book you are most engrossed in at the moment the best one?
“I loved Who Has Seen the Wind, Barometer Rising, Where Nests the Water Hen, Lost in the Barrens, The Stone Carvers, William Kinsella, Stephen Leacock, Mordecai Richler, Jack Hodgins, Evelyn Lau, Thomas King, Davies, Callaghan, Stuart McLean, Gail Bowen, William Deverell, David Richard Adams (though his books are dark, they are marvellously written).
“And you never even mentioned Timothy Findley.
“Today I am in love with Louise Penny. She writes mystery novels. Sometimes her prose takes you to another place. It is so lyrical and evocative.”
Meg Scoffield, Port Alberni:
“Vancouver Island on its own suggests names like Jack Hodgins, Esi Edugyan, Lorna Crozier.
“But to name just one for ‘;best of,’ for me it would have to be Alistair MacLeod for No Great Mischief, a masterpiece of a novel that took 10 years to write. The language is pure; the story of the Scots settlers in Cape Breton so much part of Canada’s history. The characters stay with me like people I know and care about.”
“I think for pure delight, I’d go with Robertson Davies’ Deptford Trilogy.”
My thanks for all your suggestions. Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood also received many nods.
So too did Lucy Maude Montgomery. Perhaps Anne of Green Gables should be our iconic Canadian novel. Our Tom Sawyer. A compelling novel of time and place. And beloved around the world. Not a bad thought. Keep reading.
Ian Haysom, Global news director B.C., divides his week between Vancouver and Central Saanich.
© Copyright 2013