Tag Archives: Canadian Fiction

Riding the Boundless

22 Sep

Donald Smith drove in the ceremonial last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) on November 7, 1885, at Craigellachie, British Columbia.

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The Boundless  by Kenneth Oppel begins at this event, memorialized forever in the picture above, and turns history on its head.

hi res cover

The young boy behind Donald Smith (the man holding the sledgehammer) is the main character of this new version of the story of a trip across Canada that includes sasquatches, muskeg hags, a circus troupe and murder!

The eponymous Boundless is an 11-kilometer long train on its maiden voyage across Canada. Oppel pulls from all kinds of Canadian mythology making this an especially enjoyable read for me, but it shouldn’t be off-putting to non-Canadians. Oppel did extensive research about the history of trains and you can read some of it and see pictures that inspired his descriptions on Oppel’s blog.

The main character, Will Everett is the son of a railroad laborer. When his father saves the life of Cornelius Van Horne, president of the CPR, their lives change forever. Van Horne promotes Mr. Everett and when we meet them again, his dad is in charge of the Boundless’ maiden voyage and they are on their way to British Columbia where Mr. Everett will head Van Horne’s shipping venture to the Orient.

The Boundless gives us real insight to the different classes on the train and the lives of the train laborers.  At first, i found his lack of confidence irritating, but eventually, I realized that Willis uncomfortable at the rapid change of his circumstances and doesn’t really know where he fits in. He longs for adventure and finds it, and his place, on the Boundless.

This isn’t Oppel’s best story ever, but it is a good, faced-paced, action-filled read.

Lest We Forget

11 Nov

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In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae
I memorized this poem years ago, not on purpose, but through hearing it sung for years at Remembrance Day services in the community room above the arena in New Hamburg. We all wore poppies.  Tied in my memory with the song is the sound of the lone trumpeter playing The Last Post. I get teary eyed just thinking about it. I remember old man, standing straight, hands at their sides. Some had tears in their eyes, too.
This day was chosen because it was the day the armistice ending the First World War was signed. So I have a couple of lists today: my favorite Canadian novels of WWI and kid books about WWI.
My Favorite Canadian novels of WWI 
The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart
Three Day Road  by Joseph Boyden
Deafening by Frances Itani
Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
The Wars  by Timothy Findley
 Children’s Books about WWI (fiction & non-fiction)
Truce  by Jim Murphy
War Horse  by Michael Morpurgo
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence
Knit Your Bit by Deborah Hopkinson
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Crossing Stones by Helen Frost
Soldier Dog by Sam Angus
And the Soldiers Sang  by J. Patrick Lewis
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