The Painted Province by Joy Laking

The first time I ever saw a Joy Laking painting was many years back when scrolling through the internet.   There before me was her image of – Joan’s Chairs.  I immediately looked up the artist and found her website.  I have been a fan of hers ever since. This painting is included in her book The Painted Province and it was wonderful to see it again here.…

Daring, Devious, and Deadly: True Tale of Crime and Justice from Nova Scotia’s Past by Dean Jobb

Historical non-fiction can sometimes present itself as a stained parchment paper timeline of facts, the kind that is best saved for a game of trivia or a college term paper. Other times, it can deliver as a timely, fascinating excursion. In this case, Daring, Devious, and Deadly is definitely the latter as an easy, must-read work. Author Dean Jobb does an extraordinary job of winding several notorious, landmark cases in Nova Scotian history into a book that should be on every Canadian History bookstore shelf.…

The Hermit of Africville by Jon Tattrie (New Edition)

Jon Tattrie paints a bleak picture of the destruction of Africville through the eyes of a lifelong protestor, Eddie Carvery.  Carvery grew up in Africville, a black community in the northern section of Halifax. In the 1960s he watched the city force residents from their homes and raze the properties, often without permission or knowledge of the homeowners. Many left their home with only what they could carry.…

Annaka by Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton’s second novel Annaka is a whirlwind. The narrative follows 16-year-old Annaka Brooks as she returns home to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for her Grampy’s funeral. Though much of her adolescence has been tarnished by feelings of loneliness and difference, her homecoming provides opportunities to rebuild connections with family and friends and to figure out key secrets from her past. Clay, her childhood imaginary friend, poses a particularly interesting reunion.…

Pearleen Oliver: Canada’s Black Crusader for Civil Rights, Edited by Ronald Caplan

As the Black Lives Matter movement advances, there have been many, many new books released focussing on the history of slavery, segregation and outright racism that existed and still exists in Canada. This is particularly true in Atlantic Canada where many former slaves and black Loyalists sought freedom and new lives, only to face the same issues they were escaping from in the Thirteen Colonies.…

Around the Province in 88 Days by Emily Taylor Smith

Early on a May morning, a young Nova Scotia woman straps on a small backpack and leaves the Halifax Common to start her journey along the coastal roads of Nova Scotia. Planning to cover almost a marathon a day, she will walk the perimeter of the entire province in just under three months to raise awareness for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Brigadoon Children’s Camp Society.

The Spoon Stealer by Lesley Crewe

Reading a novel by Lesley Cynthia Crewe is like covering yourself in an old quilt. You know you can settle in and get cozy, wrap yourself in the words and let the characters and their memories keep you company as you read.

Emmeline Darling, the book’s main character, revisits her past as she reads aloud from her memoir at a writing class she takes in her retirement years.…

Saltwater Chronicles: Notes on Everything Under the Nova Scotia Sun by Lesley Choyce

Lesley Choyce has been a mainstay on the Atlantic Canadian literary scene for decades. The author of 100 books, he has written and published in every genre imaginable. He has won and been shortlisted for numerous regional and national literary awards, operates a publishing house, held teaching positions at Dalhousie University and other institutions, and worked as a television presenter. He is an environmentalist, a humanitarian, a surfer, a husband and father, and a tireless advocate for Atlantic Canadian writing and writers.…

A Forest for Calum by Frank MacDonald

A Forest for Calum takes place in the 1950s and 60s rural Cape Breton. Many of the men and fathers around are war veterans; Roddie’s father was a casualty. His mother followed soon after. Which is how he came to be raised by his grandfather Calum.

With just the two of us, a 70-year-old man and a 6-year-old kid, conversations were pretty scarce, most of the time over the following years filled with patterns and habits.…

2020 “The Very Best!” Book Awards: Best Historical Fiction Winners!

The Historical Fiction category returned in a big way after being absent in 2019. The winners here range from the British Home Child program to Black activism to a historical crime committed in rural Nova Scotia. As with the other categories, it was a shame that the well-stocked shortlist was made shorter!

Crocuses Hatch From Snow by Jaime Burnet

Jaime Burnet’s novel tells an urgent, socially relevant story firmly rooted in time and place. Crocuses Hatch From Snow is first and foremost a novel of Halifax, Nova Scotia, one that addresses the good, the bad and the ugly from the city’s, and the province’s, long history and recent past.

The novel opens in October 2007 with three women watching as their house in the city’s south end—a structure that was home for three generations of the family—is being demolished to make room for a new development.…

Broken Symmetry by Rosalie Osmond

Rosalie Osmond’s second novel, Broken Symmetry, centres on the Wentzell family. The events unfold from 1943 to 1959 and mostly occur in their shared family home in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. When the novel opens, sisters Emma and Virtue are married to two brothers, Nathan and Obadiah. The men own a small barbershop together which sits next to the shared house. The hundred-year-old home was originally designed by a sea captain “centred on the eternal rather than temporal reward.”…

The Story of Lillian Burke, by Edward M. Langille

Lillian Burke is not a household name. If Edward M. Langille, author of The Lillian Burke Story, had his way, that would change. Artist, reconstruction therapist, musician, teacher—American-born Burke was all of these. Though Burke lived the bulk of her life in the United States, she also had a Canadian connection. This came through Elsie Grosvenor, Alexander Graham Bell’s eldest daughter.

Spring Cleaning: Mini-Reviews for May 2020

It’s May and it’s time for a little spring cleaning of some titles I’ve read, but haven’t reviewed as yet. There’s a mixed bag here; something for every reader’s taste.

No-Badge Killick Cover

Gord Hunter’s memoirs of his life in the Canadian Navy during the Cold War years makes for some good reading, particularly if you are interested in ships, or are an old Navy salt yourself.…

Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864) by Brenda J. Thompson

closely on the heels of her award-winning book The Poor Houses of Nova Scotia, Brenda J. Thompson has brought an important historical figure to light: Black Loyalist Rose Fortune.

Rose was a ‘character’ in Annapolis Royal and elsewhere. She was born a time when, as a poor Black woman, she was expected to keep her place in the community and keep herself silent.…