Greatest Canadian Novel

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Greatest Canadian Novel

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1kaybec Første besked:
jan 18, 2008, 8:53 pm

Is it realistic to consider a greatest Canadian novel, or is it better to think in terms of best regional novels? What is the best Quebec novel, maritimes novel, prairie novel, Toronto novel, etc.

jan 24, 2008, 4:01 pm

I have tried Canadian Literature but I've often found it dry and boring--not that I've read tons of it.

The best for me would be The English Patient
The worst The Stone Angel

feb 1, 2008, 9:57 pm

I don't think I can narrow down to one favourite, but some of my favourites include:

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
The Birth House by Ami McKay
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

maj 23, 2008, 3:32 pm

I just finished reading Timothy Findley's epic novel The Piano Man's Daughterand it is a great novel that takes place in Toronto at the turn of the previous century. It's a huge work, dealing with mental illness and the first World War and family legacies. A really great read and I think one of the best Canadian novels written.

maj 24, 2008, 9:38 am

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. One of the best novels I've read, period, and not usually listed among the usual suspects of Can Lit. He's a young Métis writer, the book is an epic first world war story with a twist. This is one of the finest novels I've ever read.

maj 24, 2008, 1:14 pm

Margaret Laurence is one of Canada's best writers, but she is not mentioned very much.
She wrote during the '50's, & 60's & later writers like Margaret Atwood & Alice Munro credit her as an inspiration, as do many US women writers. She was a winner of the Governor General's Award in 1966 for A Jest of God& the Univ. of Chicago Press has re-issued 6 of her books.
My personal favorite is A bird in the House.

maj 26, 2008, 2:29 pm

Three Day Roadhas been on my tbr list for a long time. Now that I know it is also about the first World War I'm going to push it to the front of the list. I've just read Timothy Findley's wonderful novel The Piano Man's Daughterabout the first World War and the period fascinates me.

MarianV, Margaret Laurence is a favourite of mine too,although I haven't read any of her works for far too long a period of time now.

maj 28, 2008, 6:18 am

My top two Canadian novels couldn't be more different, but I adore them both: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston for its ebullience and Obasan by Joy Kogawa for its restraint.

maj 28, 2008, 6:25 am

I love most of Timothy Findley's work. I also love Jane Urquhart, especiallyA Map of Glass and Away. One of the best Canadian books I've ever read was Random Passage by Bernice Morgan.

And for something a little off-beat, but quintessentially Canadian, I highly recommend The Dominion of Wyley McFadden by Scott Gardiner. A former medical doctor travelling across Canada bringing rats to Alberta (having heard on CBC Radio that Alberta has none) in his personal commitment to equalization -- a theme that cost him his medical license. How much more Canadian can you get?

aug 31, 2008, 4:26 pm

I love Margaret Laurence, but I can't believe no one's mentioned Robertson Davies - the man is a genius! My favourite is his Deptford trilogy.
In terms of Canadian French, Gabrielle Roy is unsurpassed - all of her novels and short stories are worth a read, and then there's Nancy Huston who writes beautifully in both French and English, my favourite being Cantique des plaines.
Of Timothy Findley's, I loved You Went Away. Finally, I recommend Jacques Godbout's L'Aquarium.
My conclusion is that there isn't any more a Great Canadian Novel than a Great American Novel - there's too much to choose from!

aug 31, 2008, 4:45 pm

For me the quintessential Quebec English language novel is Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan, and written maybe 60 years ago. It's not great in terms of the quality of writing, but deals quite well with the English-French separation of that era.

My first introduction to Robertson Davies was through the Rebel Angels, set in Toronto. He writes well and is one of my favorite authors.

aug 31, 2008, 8:26 pm

I agree that Two Solitudes really defined an era.

My favourite Canadian author is Jane Urquhart. But, another author worth noting is Scott Gardiner who has written two books that ONLY a Canadian could write: The Dominion of Wyley McFadden and King John of Canada. Anyone interested in Can Lit needs to check these out.

sep 30, 2008, 2:33 pm

I am almost finished reading Barbara Gowdy's book Helpless and I think it's just dreadful. I really don't think she can write well. It's incredible this book was long-listed for a Giller last year. The book is so pedestrian and the characters are so poorly drawn. This is the second GowdyI've read and I think she's an extremely over-rated writer.

okt 1, 2008, 6:53 am

alans, I liked the story in Helpless but agree that it wasn't great literature. I did like her novel Mister Sandman, but the rest were just o.k.

okt 1, 2008, 1:22 pm

Mister Sandman is the only one I'm still interested in.
I will have to pick it up sometime.

dec 7, 2008, 11:04 am

I'm reading this novel now and I wholly agree with your assessment of it. As a Canadian and as someone who has read Findley before, I must say this is his best work. The beginning, when Charlie reflects on why his mother's story must be told, has the most lyrical writing I've ever read.

It certainly is one of the best examples of Canadian writing I've read.

Redigeret: jan 3, 2009, 6:17 pm

Canadian books I read this year that I loved:
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Richler
Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Galloway
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Older favorites:
Random Passage by Bernice Morgan btw, Morgan's newest, Cloud of Bone was marvelous
Barometer Rising - I haven't read this in years, but I remember being very impressed
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Can I count A Fine Balance?

I pick Random Passage as the best Canadian novel.

jan 4, 2009, 12:13 am

I read Crow Lake last year and loved the story - I'm also a fan of Margaret Lawrence and read A Jest of God last year also.

I have very fond memories of a literary lunch I attended for Margaret Atwood about four years ago. It was a very humorous lunch and she had a very receptive audience.

One of my favourites of Atwoods is Alias Grace.

jan 4, 2009, 6:36 pm

I also love The English Patient, but my favourite Canadian novel would have to be The Double Hook by Sheila Watson - Canadian Modernism at it's best!

Redigeret: jan 4, 2009, 11:10 pm

The Double Hook really got mangled on its customer ratings on the website. I should take a look at the Canadian site.

feb 4, 2009, 5:28 pm

My favourite and I think the best Canadian writer right now is Raymond Fraser. His novel THE BANNONBRIDGE MUSICIANS was runner-up for the Governor General's Award, and since then he's done a bunch of great books. If you don't believe me try RUM RIVER, or IN A CLOUD OF DUST AND SMOKE, or WHEN THE EARTH WAS FLAT, etc.
He also did an excellent biography of the boxer Yvon Durelle, called THE FIGHTING FISHERMAN. The Establishment pretends he doesn't exist but he does! I'm just now reading his latest, THE GRUMPY MAN, and it's really good too.

feb 5, 2009, 1:00 pm

Not many people have Raymond Fraser's books yet on LT. Myabe, you could do a review of The Bannonbridge Musicians. I didn't see a review of it on Amazon either.

mar 16, 2009, 9:32 am

how about In the Skin of a Lion for a "best of" Toronto? I would love it even if I wasn't from Toronto, I think (hope).

Redigeret: apr 29, 2009, 3:43 pm

Very much agree with jbealy. Three Day Road is a masterfully written novel on par with the best writing anywhere. Not only did it bring to light a part of Canadian history we know very little about (aboriginal participation in the World War I), but it did so in an honest, straightforward and compelling style. There were scenes in that novel that kept me up at night.

jul 8, 2009, 11:55 pm

Some of my favourites are:

Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
the Island Walkers by John Bemrose
and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston.

I also really loved the first half or so of Fugitive Pieces but not the story in the second part.

Oops - and of course Anne of Green Gables!

I haven't read many Canadian books that I haven't really enjoyed... in fact I'm struggling to think of any.

jul 9, 2009, 10:48 am

Surprising that no one has nominated Paul Quarrington's best novel, Whale Music.

Perhaps not the Greatest Canadian Novel (if indeed you could identify such a thing), but at least as worthy as many of the more recent novels mentioned here.

jul 10, 2009, 12:01 am

If one looks at Newfoundland as a separate category (from the Maritimes), my favorite novel is Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark. This is set in a fishing village quite a bit south of St. John's and deals with how a family took in a foundling that probably came off a ship that foundred off the coast.

For many, Annie Proulx's Shipping News is their big introduction to Nfld. It is set in the NW of the island, and I only lived on the opposite SE corner, so I was unable to fully identify with the community that Proulx brings to life.

I don't know that I have read a Maritimes novel. Perhaps, someone could recommend something? Although, there is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline set in Acadie.

jul 10, 2009, 12:52 am

David Adams Richards is the obvious choice for a writer from (and of) the Maritimes, in this case New Brunswick.

I find his earlier work (thinking in particular of Blood Ties) all but unreadable: thick, indigestible, stream of consciousness flowing more like porridge than water. But his later books are much easier to take. I recently read The Friends of Meager Fortune, a historical novel about loggers in NB, and enjoyed it.

Another from the maritimes is Lynne Coady. Try Saints of Big Harbour, set in contemporary small-town New Brunswick. Coady is not as well known as D.A.R. but she deserves to be.

I haven't read it, but Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth Harvey earned critical raves last year, and is probably worth checking out. It's set in Newfoundland.

jul 10, 2009, 9:45 am

To get back to Newfoundland for a moment, Random Passage by Bernice Morgan is the best novel I've read, and it was recommended to me by a native Newfoundlander as much better and more reflective of that province than The Shipping News.

Maritimes? Loved No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod.

aug 8, 2009, 4:58 pm

Just finished, Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, which I found to be well written and devastating in storyline. Another memorable and recommended Canadian fiction is, Main St. by Trevanian.

aug 28, 2009, 6:39 pm

I would check out Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden. He has a very straightforward, honest and fresh writing style that I really enjoyed. I loved both his books.

jul 21, 2011, 3:48 pm

I think I have to say "Cereus blooms at night" by Shani Mootoo.

aug 3, 2011, 3:08 am

Unless by Carol Shields

sep 15, 2011, 10:51 am

I agree with many of the posts here! Limited by what I have read I would suggest:
Windflower by Garbrielle Roy
The Book of Negroes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
The Handmaid's Tale
Also something by Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler, and likely The Two Solitudes.
Of course, something by Robertson Davies will also be a must.

sep 15, 2011, 4:23 pm

I'm reading the Cellist of Sarajevo right now and it is very good.

sep 15, 2011, 4:49 pm

Lots of fabulous books mentioned so far, but no one has yet mentioned one of my top favourites: Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway.

dec 4, 2011, 4:18 pm

I've just found this thread so even though it's been a while since anyone posted I'll pick out some of my favourites that I don't think have been mentioned yet.

Starting with my home province, Manitoba, I'm going to mention Where Nests the Water Hen by Gabrielle Roy which was picked during the Thin Air Festival as the Manitoba Reads book.

As others have said Robertson Davies was a genius and I loved the Cornish Trilogy by him: The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus. I think they would be my Ontario pick although there are lots that would also work.

For Quebec I'm going to mention The Marriage Bed by Constance Beresford-Howe. It was the first book by this author that I read and it spoke to me as a feminist.

From Eastern Canada I think Barometer Rising is a classic.

From the Western prairies Jake and the Kid gives a glimpse of life as it used to be.

I was having a hard time thinking of a book from BC that I rated as high as the others I've mentioned. Then I remember Needles by William Deverell. It's not a conventional choice for great Canadian novel since it is from the crime/thriller genre but when it came out in 1979 very few Canadians were writing in that genre and it made a big impact. Interestingly, Deverell apparently regrets that he has become trapped in the crime genre because he swore to his father that he would write a "literary" book.

Redigeret: dec 15, 2011, 3:53 pm

I really enjoyed No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod...Also As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross is a Canadian classic.

sep 14, 2012, 1:51 pm

At the risk of sounding like a literary snob...I dislike the notion of a "greatest" novel for a country. It is far too vague, not to mention inherently subjective. Are we looking for the most important novel? If so, in what manner? Politics? Influence on the art of literature? For that reason, I will avoid commenting on the greatness of these works...simply my preference for them :-)

My favourite Canadian novel has to be Life of Pi by Yann Martel. However, my favourite piece of Canadian lit is a collection of short stories, not a novel: Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro.

aug 25, 2013, 1:31 pm

Here's an article on must-read CanLit:

I've read most of them, and would agree that they are all worth reading at some point.

aug 25, 2013, 2:09 pm

I'd want to choose something by Douglas Coupland. Generation X is his most important work, but it's not really a novel. Maybe Girlfriend in a Coma?

aug 26, 2013, 8:36 am

17 - I agree with your choices. I've read all of those except for the Coupland book and Cloud of Bone and they were all excellent books. My two favourites of what you've chosen are The Cellist of Sarajevo and Random Passage, although I really loved Before Green Gables too. How can anyone choose just ONE great Canadian novel - there are just so many.

sep 25, 2013, 2:46 pm

i"m trying to read all of the long-listed books for this year's Giller prize and I started out with a total winner-Caughtby Lisa Moore. This is the first book I've read by her and it is just sensational. i'm almost finished it and I'm so impressed that I look forward to reading all the rest of her work. I don't think it will win though. I think this year's winner will be Joseph Boyden.