Monday, August 1, 2011

Haligonian Stories - a vintage post*

I love a good long weekend. I also love Halifax. So, in honour of Natal Day which celebrates both, here are a few books I have read and enjoyed that take place in or around Halifax.

These Four Walls by Susan Cameron takes place in both modern and Depression-era Halifax. Piecing together her mother, Rose’s life, Barbara discovers the wealth of pretty dramatic secrets her mother held, and also allows us to experience Rose and a much older Halifax firsthand. Rose and her sisters are quite young when both of their parents die of tuberculosis, and they are sent to a Protestant orphanage in the North End of Halifax. Rose travels the city by streetcar, chats with sailors on shore leave, watches fireworks from Citadel Hill, begins a family, and keeps secrets to protect herself and her sisters.

Hadley Dyer’s wonderful YA novel, Johnny Kellock Died Today takes place at the end of the 50s. Trying to solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance, Rosalie enlists the help of the neighbourhood weird kid who everyone makes fun of. Johnny was last seen down in the dockyards, so they begin their search there. The reader gets a great tour of Agricola Street and North End Halifax at its busiest and most vibrant.

For a more contemporary look at Halifax, try Carol Bruneau’s Berth: a novel. Much of the novel was very familiar to me (my navy father worked with the Sea King helicopters out of Shearwater, as does Charlie’s father), and it’s always nice to read about a place you know (Eastern Shore, Dartmouth). Charlie’s mother leaves his father, though, and takes up with a sax-playing lighthouse keeper who lives on George’s Island in the middle of Halifax Harbour. Bruneau provides an interesting perspective of the city I thought I knew so well.

Beloved local author, Budge Wilson writes about Halifax in her collection of short stories for teens, Fractures: family stories. Taking place at different times in our city’s history, Wilson’s stories are rooted in the homes of Inglis Street, Windsor Street, Bedford, and the problems and heartaches that fracture and hold together all different kinds of families.

*-this vintage post was first published August 2009

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