Brighten the Corner Where You Are by Carol Bruneau

Confession time: I don’t care for the paintings of Maud Lewis. This is heresy for a Nova Scotian, but it’s true. Folk art just isn’t my thing. I knew a little about Lewis’ difficult life (the health issues, the poverty, the tiny, painted house) since these facts are added to our tap water, but have never felt motivated to learn more. (And no, I haven’t seen that Maudie movie because movies also aren’t my thing.)

I had faith in Carol Bruneau’s ability to make me care about Maud Lewis, however, so I ordered a copy and, lo and behold, my faith was justified. It’s very good.

It takes courage to tell a story so familiar to so many in such a fresh way and it takes skill to know when and how to inject that story with moments of lightness and grace and humour. Bruneau’s got ’em . I think Maud Lewis would be pleased.

a sweater for Anna

Knit from a pattern I will not name because it had issues.

After having to make a million modifications, I have finally finished this cabled yoke sweater for Anna. It’s seriously overcast today (good for my head, not so good for photos) so the yarn isn’t showing itself to be the pretty green it is in real life, but this photo is better than nothing. I’ve given away so much over the years, either forgetting to get a picture first or naively thinking I’d get a picture of it being worn/used later, and now have nothing to show for it. I’m trying to do better.

Many Lives Mark This Place by John Hartman

This is a tough one. As much as I love the three primary concerns of this book (writers, art and Canadian landscapes), I really don’t love Hartman’s style of portraiture. Aside from his sitters all looking ugly and misshapen, I don’t care for the way their heads and upper bodies are floating above their chosen landscapes, with no connection between the two. It’s a strange choice since each writer contributed a piece about their relationship with the terrain. Why not show them actually in it?

welcome to the northern flicker appreciation society

What do I love most about northern flickers? Is it the saucy way they have of flashing a fiery look over their shoulder?

Or is it their fabulous spotty vests worn over a tight-fitting black t-shirt?

Maybe it’s the way they sit down to eat.

Or the way they quickly stand to show off when a smaller colleague appears.

It’s impossible to say.

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

When Dorothy Whipple submitted this perfect specimen of domestic fiction back in the early 1950s, her publisher was lukewarm about it, apparently, since the fashion in literature had turned decisively to action/adventure-type books and Someone at a Distance just didn’t fit the bill.

It’s true that the plot summary probably sounds boring to thrill-seekers: Avery and Ellen have been happily married for 20 years. They have charming, precocious children, a lovely house and extensive gardens, and work that they each find personally and financially fulfilling. Then Avery’s cranky old mother hires a beautiful, young, French woman named Louise to serve as her companion and it becomes clear the clock is ticking on Avery and Ellen’s perfect lives.

This is a quiet novel, for sure, but it definitely isn’t boring. Whipple is such a master at scene-setting and pacing and characterization that I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended for anyone who doesn’t care for (or needs to take a break from) Scandinavian police procedurals, courtroom thrillers or post-apocalyptic hellscapes.