Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Instructor

9 Canadian Writers Who Run with the Night

By Beth Follett

A recommended reading list by the founder and publisher of Pedlar Press, whose new novel is Instructor.

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Book Cover Trip of the Dead

Apocalypses, Quests, and Survival

By Angela Misri

A great list of books for middle-grade readers by author of new novel Trip of the Dead.

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The Chat with Eva Crocker

The Chat with Eva Crocker

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with author Eva Crocker. Her debut novel, All I Ask, (House of Anansi Press) was publi …

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Book Cover A Town Called Solace

Mary Lawson: A Sense of Place

By Mary Lawson

"I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, or if people the world over are similarly drawn to the landscape they know w …

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Book Cover: Elvis Me and the Lemonade Summer

Most Anticipated: Our Books for Young Readers Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Looking forward to some of the books for young readers (and readers of all ages) that we're going to be falling in love …

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I Read Canadian Day is back!

I Read Canadian Day is back!

By Geoffrey Ruggero

It’s back! After a very successful first year where authors, students, educators, librarians, parents and many other C …

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Book Cover The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Scrumptious Stories

By Julie Booker

DELICIOUS books about food and eating.

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Book Cover Firefly

The Kids: Are They Alright?

By Philippa Dowding

What is it like for a child who lives with a parent or who knows an adult struggling with a crisis of mental health, add …

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Where It All Happened: A List of Propulsive Settings

Where It All Happened: A List of Propulsive Settings

By Kiley Turner

Anyone who's read Emma Donoghue's The Pull of the Stars knows just how much the confines of that understaffed maternity …

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Book Cover Night Watch

Seeking Certainty in Uncertain Worlds

By Gillian Wigmore

A fascinating recommended reading list by the author of new book Night Watch.

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A Shoe in the Wall: Guest Post by Tristan Hughes

Tristan Hughes Sticks in Lake

Up here in northern Ontario the hunting season has arrived. The evidence is unmistakable: a sudden proliferation of bright orange clothing, and, in the streets and roads, people talking excitedly about ‘sign’. Stripped of its ‘s’ and turned into a collective noun, sign stands for any evidence of an animal’s presence--scat, footprints, rubbed bark, a snapped twig--and in scrutinizing it, the hunter attempts to apprehend a narrative in the landscape: a story that will tell him what an animal has been doing and so, of course, where it might be. Like any decent novelist, the hunter is trying his best to engineer encounters, to reveal something otherwise hidden, to bring disparate lives into a brief--and sometimes fatal--moment of convergence.

It all reminds me of that literary hunter and tracker par excellence: James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo. In one of the novels in which he features--The Pioneers, I think--Natty comes upon a clearing in the forest, and surveying a nearby valley finds mingled there “scenes of nature, signs of men”. It’s a resonant and memorable phrase (one of my professors at university used it as the title for an excellent book) in which the ‘sign’ on show provides proof of human settlement and occupation, and hence the ba …

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Amy Jones's Northern Ontario Books List

Book Cover We're All In This Togetehr

Here at 49th Shelf, we're pretty big fans of Amy Jones's debut novel, We're All In This Together. It makes an appearance on our CAN'T FAIL Summer Reading list (in which we declared it "THE book to spend a whole day in a hammock reading while one is mildly hungover"), and don't miss Trevor Corkum's interview with Amy from last month for The Chat

With this list, Amy is determined to set Google straight when it comes to the query of "Books Set in Northern Ontario." And if the list is a sundae, her own book is surely the cherry on top.  

*****

The number one related Google search to “Books Set in Northern Ontario” is “Is Toronto in Northern Ontario?” The answer, of course, is no, but given Northern Ontario’s sheer size, it’s pretty much the only part of Ontario—along with a few other cities we like to refer to up here as “down south”—that isn’t. Equally massive is the number of books set in the region. Here are eight to start with.

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If I Fall, If I Die, by Michael Christie

Michael Christie’s debut novel about a boy raised by an agor …

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Mary Lawson: A Sense of Place

When my first book, Crow Lake, came out, one reviewer commented that the landscape was so central to the story that it was to all intents and purposes another character. That’s how it felt while I was writing it too. All of my novels—including my latest, A Town Called Solace—are set in Northern Ontario, and the landscape is absolutely fundamental to them.

I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, or if people the world over are similarly drawn to the landscape they know well, but it seems to me that the wilder and more inhospitable the terrain, the more it gets its hooks into you. Similarly, when it comes to towns and cities, the more remote and restricting the place, the greater the effect it seems to have—at least, if you’re a writer.  

The books I have chosen below all have a powerful sense of place, either in terms of the landscape or of the community where they are set. In addition to that, they are all terrific reads!

 

I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, or if people the world over are similarly drawn to the landscape they know well, but it seems to me that the wilder and more inhospitable the terrain, the more it gets its hooks into you.

Mary Lawson

*****

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