Saturday, May 31, 2008

Canadian Book Challenge final round-up

It's the end of May, and I'd better mention two books I've read for John's Canadian Book Challenge. Almost done now...but I don't know if I'll make it to all 13 this time around. Still have that pesky Nunavut to read about! But there's always the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge...

Anyhow, I've recently read two which I'll mention here in brief review:

Regina, SK: Coteau, c1998.

Set in the Interlake region of Manitoba during WWII, this is a tale of a Ukrainian community holding on to their past and their legends, especially that of the rusalka, or water spirit. It contrasts an immigrant community maintaining their customs with the need to become part of their new country. It's a mix of folklore and a murder mystery, and is peopled with fascinating characters. The action is set in motion at the wedding of the title, a summer wedding where the heat and the drinking and the dancing result in a married man, Yuri, running away with Marusia, a 'loose woman'. They return shamefacedly some time later, and the small community is shocked by the murder of Marusia, shortly after. The murder forces them to adapt to the world they now live in, as they say, "murder is murder, whether in Ukraine, or in Canada". While the older members of the town cling to religion and their old world beliefs, the younger people see a wider world. Some of the young men go off to Winnipeg to join the army, and one girl, Lena Melnyk, dreams of going to Winnipeg to work as a domestic, or even to Toronto to work in the factories -- anything to get away from her past. The events of the war are woven into the story through newspapers and radio, but the focus of the story is on the Ukrainian worldview of this group, which is becoming Canadian in the younger generation. The novel has a bit of a dreamy feel despite the fact of murder and the quite frank sexual content. It's an interesting example of how Canadian-Ukrainian writing often looks toward the past, to the history and culture of immigrants, while modern Ukrainian writing looks ahead to current events in Ukraine. All in all, this was a fascinating read.

Ptarmageddon : a Robyn Devara mystery / Karen Dudley
Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, c2006.

The second book covers the Yukon Territory, as it is a mystery set primarily in Whitehorse and further north in the Willow Creek Adventure and Wilderness Retreat. The research scientist and amateur sleuth Robyn Devara is going up north because her boyfriend Kelt is involved in a research project on pikas. But the most intriguing fact here is that a fellow scientist, an ornithologist named Selena Barry, has been murdered and has willed all her notes to Robyn -- who never met Selena. Among the geologists, ornithologists, and varied research scientists, Robyn must figure out who could have killed her and who might kill again. It's a quick, light read for anybody interested in birds, ecology, wilderness or just plain mysterious fun. And it has lots of information about the Yukon, too!


  1. The Ukrainian wedding sounds really neat! You're going to Ukraine at some point, right? When's your trip?

  2. Eva - the novel was a good find. And yes, I'm heading off to Ukraine in just a few weeks :) Can't wait!

  3. You must be so excited! I hope you share some pictures when you get back. :D

  4. I will!! Hopefully I'll be able to access a computer while I'm there and post a few, but I'm not holding my breath...

  5. Yay! I'm always in favour of CanCon! There's too little of it in international circles.

    Have you heard of a new book called "Toss of a Lemon" and if so have you read it?

  6. That second one certainly has a great title- Ptarmageddon- a cross between ptarmigan and Armageddon, how clever!

  7. Both books sound fascinating---but so different in tone!

  8. Duck Thief - I've heard of "Toss of a lemon" but don't know too much about it. Have you read it?

    Jeane - apparently all the books in the series have birdish puns as titles. Reminds me of Donna Andrews' series featuring Meg Langslow.

    Heather - they were both interesting in their own quite different ways.

  9. No. I heard about it through CBC when the author was being interviewed. I hoped I might be able to pick your brain about it. I'll just put my name down at the library.

  10. I'm with Jeanne, I love the title of the 2nd book.

    I missed these reviews when I did the roundup for the 8th update. Sorry about that. I'm off to fix it right now.


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