A Season on Vancouver Island by Bill Arnott

A Season on Vancouver Island by Bill Arnott is a small book, the size of my hand. There are about 200 pages – each chapter a few pages long – with words and pictures generously interlaced. The pictures are eye-catching. They are digitized copies of photos taken by Arnott on his travels throughout Vancouver Island and some of the surrounding smaller islands. The stunning shots are in full colour and offer a unique quality of their own to Arnott’s latest offering. Bill Arnott is the author of two other travel books, Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries. A Season on Vancouver Island is his latest travel book. And, this is where I have an issue.

First, though, let’s talk about A Season on Vancouver Island. I was looking forward to diving into this book and when I received it, I did just that. A deep dive. I was immersed into it by the first chapter, Ten Thousand Horses.

               “Ten Thousand Horses rumble to life. With a diesel vibration, water churns into chop and a blue and white ferry shoves us into the strait, in the direction of Vancouver Island. On the other side of the water, Nanaimo. Snuneymuxw. Coast Salish land. A sense of connection is what I feel, gazing through open steel portals. The horses pick up their pace, trot to canter, as a ripple ricochets through rivets and railings. The result, a feeling of departure, and possibility.” (p 3)

From this opening paragraph of travel from the bustling metropolis of Vancouver to a lesser-populated Vancouver Island, Arnott switches gears, seamlessly. He recounts a childhood memory, described so visually that I could at once relate to his “sense of departure on a grand adventure that’s never gone away…”. As Arnott’s words roll along into tales of his travel and memory, I encounter his stops and visits alongside him, and often his wife, Deb. Deb, he explains, accompanies him as they search out the many beaches, trails, towns, and other islands on their trek.  Arnott meets people and wildlife along the way, samples food and wine, and all the while probes the land and his memories. During these experiences, I’m held comfortably within his lyrical prose. Every sentence is tight and has meaning, no words are wasted, and no meaning lost. I was happily carried from one vignette to another, enjoying the lull of his words and the pull of his story, whatever or wherever it may carry me. After each chapter, I could not resist another, the pages begging to be turned.

 Sounds like a read one would be quite happy with. Yes. Very happy. So, here’s my issue. This is not a travel book.  This is so much more. A Season on Vancouver Island is a trifecta of a sense of adventure, a sense of wonder, and a sense of quiet. As such, this remarkable little book is at once a travel log, a memoir, and a meditation. I found myself smiling often, as in the chapter A Frog Named Steve, and couldn’t help relating to Arnott’s stories, as his words held me. With such titles as Kay Dubois and Petroglyphs, What Happens When You Lick a Banana Slug?, and Celestial Snails, I did not know where Arnott was taking me, but I went along willingly – trusting him and his masterful telling, as if entranced. 

This latest offering by Bill Arnott is filled with tales of history, complete with Indigenous words, thoughts of his childhood, sights, sounds, smells, and feels of Big Island and nearby islands. A lovely meandering, from coast to inland, and back to coast. I found the stories to build more and more toward the meditative sense of the world around him, as Arnott envisions it, bringing on a peaceful quality by the book’s end. Perhaps Vancouver Island’s offering to him?

A Season on Vancouver Island is an accomplishment of great means; something for all ages, all people, and all visitors to this earth. It is a salute to Vancouver Island and its surroundings, and indeed, to storytelling itself. This book filled my heart and at the same time made me feel lighter and wiser. This is a collection full of gems – an exploration, of the land and of self. And yes, it is an inspiration.  

A Season on Vancouver Island by Bill Arnott is a mosaic of literary grandeur and such an object can only be called by one word – treasure. Pick up a copy and experience this telling for yourself. You will then know why A Season on Vancouver Island is my top read of 2022.

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel SagaGone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, and A Season on Vancouver Island. He’s been awarded by the ABF International Book Awards, Firebird Book Awards, Whistler Book Awards, and received The Miramichi Reader’s Very Best Book Award for nonfiction. His column-series “Bill Arnott’s Beat” appears in magazines around the globe, and for his expeditions, Bill’s been granted a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ RMB | Rocky Mountain Books (Sept. 27 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 216 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771605774
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771605779

Managing Editor

TMR’s Managing Editor Carrie Stanton has a BA in Political Science from the University of Calgary. She is the author of The Jewel and Beast Bot, and picture books, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Gardener. Carrie loves to write stories that grow wings and transport readers everywhere.  She reads and enjoys stories from every genre.