My recent reading of Frances Itani's new book has got me thinking about all the Canadian novels I've read featuring older women looking back at their lives. So, in honour of Canada Day, here are a few of the books about Canadian women that I've liked:
1. Remembering the Bones / Frances Itani : as just reviewed, Georgina Danforth Witley looks over her long life and family connections while lying injured in a ravine following a car accident.
2. The Stone Angel / Margaret Laurence : A Canadian classic. Hagar Shipley reflects on a life in which she neither loved nor was much loved. In her 90's she is as prickly as ever, and is living with her eldest son (not her favourite son) and his wife. She reexamines her life to find out how she has arrived here, and in a moving conclusion, where she is going.
3. The Innocent Traveller / Ethel Wilson : Topaz Edgeworth is a perfect example of the unexamined life. This is the story of her century-long life as a flighty, chatty woman who is never quite affected by world events occuring around her. She remains unmarried and doesn't seem to get bogged down in the details of life like her myriad friends and relatives do; she enjoys each day as it comes. Beginning in Victorian England, she later moves to British Columbia. This is partly based on Wilson's aunt, and partly invented -- it is wholly entertaining.
4. Mystical Rose / Richard Scrimger : Rose Rolyoke, suffering from dementia, recalls her life in 20th century Canada. She begins a conversation with God, irritated by the body's failings in old age, remembering her youth as a beautiful servant who ends up marrying the son of the house. Her memories intrude on her present, not always peacefully; as she says, "The past is always knocking on the door of the present ... a pleasant image that, only the past isn't always polite. Sometimes it knocks the damn door down and comes barging in."
5. A Recipe for Bees / Gail Anderson-Dargatz : Augusta Olsen, returning home from hospital where her son-in-law is being operated on, begins to reminisce about varied moments in her long life. She feels she has 'seen' her forthcoming death, so begins to recall her B.C. childhood, then her dull marriage which mysteriously blooms into love, as well as moments in her relationship with her daughter. Sprinkled throughout are tidbits from the lore of bees.