“Memory opens for me through my body. I slip back because I catch a smell, hear a sound, or hold an evocative flavour on my tongue. But these single-sense glimpses of or gusts from the past are often fleeting. More compelling for me, more total, is when my whole body, the entire surface of my skin, and my muscles’ movements connect me to my old self. Especially it is the movements of summer, when more of me meets the elements, while I am swimming, or feeling my bramble-scratched legs against hot rocks. Or when I am experiencing the lovely lassitude that fills me at the end of a long afternoon of sun and water as I stand slicing tomatoes for my supper, while corn boils, and sun falls in the window on a pile of raspberries in a bowl. All my senses, all, are alive.” – from I’ll Tell You a Secret
A delightful, beautifully written and thoroughly engaging story of coming-of-age in the 1950s that focuses on Anne Coleman between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, and her relationship with “Mr. MacLennan” (Canadian literary figure Hugh MacLennan), which played out in the summers in the village of North Hatley, Quebec, a picturesque resort that has been known to attract artists and writers and the upper-classes. In prose that is intimate, visual, and resonant with immediacy, Anne Coleman brings us back to summers in the 1950s, revealing the eccentricities of North Hatley and its residents, but most of all focusing on her special friendship with a man many years her senior.
Independent, individualistic, sensually alert, as a young girl Anne Coleman did not fit the mould. Later, when Anne is eighteen, she leads a double life, one which follows the course of a romance with Frank, the dark, brooding European young man who has a strange hold over her, and the enigmatic Mr. MacLennan, whose own feelings for Anne suggest themselves to her in ways that are at once confusing, tantalizing, and deeply important.
Along the way, the story also offers a wonderfully evocative portrayal of the 1950s, its sexual repressiveness and mores. The beautiful village of North Hatley comes alive in vivid ways.
This is a unique coming-of-age story by a writer who writes sentences that cut to the bone.
Anne Coleman was born in Toronto and grew up in Ontario and Quebec. She received a B.A. from McGill University and a M.A. in English from Bishop’s University. She taught for five years in Westmount, and then for thirty years at University College of the Cariboo, in Kamloops, British Columbia. She lives in Victoria, where she is a writer and novice sculptor, and a lover of the natural world.
“A stunning portrait of a time and a half-evolved friendship. A classic, I think.”
—Michael Ondaatje, Globe and Mail
“Tantalizing, fascinating and lovingly crafted.”
—London Free Press
“Written with the immediacy of the present and the wisdom of the intervening decades, this book is a perceptive meditation on the thrall of infatuation.”
—Sandra Martin, Globe and Mail
“The truth conveyed in the book is emotional, subjective, and one-sided, echoing Alice Munro’s stories of girlhood in their narrowness of location and point of view, as well as their concern with what is unspoken and unrealized.”
—Quill & Quire