Recommended Summer Reads

Here are a few summer reads to get your list started. There is a focus on Canadian historical literature so far, but I will add more titles soon.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
This historical novel is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a servant girl from Ireland and a celebrated murderess, who divided social opinion in the mid-1800s, as many believed she was innocent. It takes place in Richmond Hill, Toronto and Kingston, and Atwood does a meticulous job of weaving Grace’s tale with accurate details from the social and economic realms of the time. Dr. Jordan has a curiosity for the ebbs and flows of the human mind and memory, and interviews Grace, to see if he can recover any clues to her innocence. Grace narrates her tale, full of trial and tribulation; a girl who just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. She tells of precise memories both believable and inconceivable, leaving the reader to decide whether Grace is speaking the truth. A real mystery, this novel plunges the reader into a colourful time period, rife with superstition, spirituality, and extraordinary theories about the landscape of the human mind.

The Birth House
by Ami McKay
Set in Nova Scotia in the early 20th century, this novel focuses on a young woman named Dora Rare, who is learning the secrets and mysteries of being a midwife from the wise, spiritual Miss Babineau. It explores the tensions between old world medicine and new world ideas from Dr. Thomas, who pushes to open a clinic for pregnant women near the small town of Scots Bay. This novel explores Dora’s journey from a young, easy influenced teenager, who must deal with town gossip, the trials and upstarts of young love, and the tragedy of losses both big and small, to an experienced, confident woman. McKay’s descriptive, historical prose, and insight into the hearts and minds of women at the time, make this an indelible summer read.

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