In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

daughters of the province, though gone away

Is Elizabeth Bishop a Nova Scotia poet? She spent formative time here, with her maternal grandparents. But mostly she lived around: in Massachusetts and the Florida Keys and Brazil, among other places. She was a bit of a vagabond, and not always by her own choice. Still, Nova Scotia was a deep well for Bishop, and she returned to drink from it over and over.

Howard Norman is another writer associated with Nova Scotia, although I don't think he has ever lived here for any length of time. He now lives in the Washington DC area and teaches at The University of Maryland. Much of his fiction has been set in Nova Scotia, though. Even though he's not from around here, the province has taken hold of him. He, too, drinks from this well.

His most recent book, What is Left the Daughter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2010), is set in Halifax and in the Minas Basin area, near Bishop's nesting ground, Great Village. It's a connection he lightly touches with his description of the Esso station in Great Village and passing reference to a local poet.

What is Left the Daughter is a lyrical tale composed within the framework of looming war with Germany, filtered through local senses. A set of quiet lives, mostly interwoven at the village level, suddenly take a hard turn into the extreme. The rest is consequences, and memory. His artfully composed story evokes a sense of village life in Nova Scotia in the 1930s and 1940s, and the grim teeming chaos of Halifax during the war years. The tone is mostly regret, which seeps through the pages like grey fog.


Janet said...

It's hard to deny the hold Nova Scotia has on many of her sons and daughters. As for wartime Halifax, I grew up there in the 40's and I have only to think of that time and I smell salt cod drying on the rooftops on the waterfront, coal smoke filling the air and blackening the buildings and snowbanks, and over all the yeasty smell of the brewery. As a small child then, I was aware of the huge number of servicemen and the high risk entailed in hosting them and marshalling convoys through the port. A very gritty, fearful time.
We have a huge body of poetry and prose, music and visual arts for such a small place.

MargaretJ said...

I *loved* this book. My parents, each from separate ends of the province, met in Halifax during the war. My mother was in nursing school, and my father was driving a taxi. The book has many realistic scenes of wartime Halifax.