Sunday, May 20, 2012

Canadian book challenge - 11th post

One of the very first books we read in my Canadian lit class was Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town (the first might have been Susanna Moodie's Roughing It, which few of us enjoyed).  I had a chance to return to this a while back.  This book is kind of a gentle satire on the pretensions of the people who stay in a little town in Ontario (with its own train station!).  It is very much in line with Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone stories (and perhaps a bit gentler than the Corner Gas TV show).  It's enjoyable but it is hard to say too much about the book.  The townsfolk are decent and well-meaning but not really the sharpest crayons in the box.  Probably the most intriguing character is Mr. Smith who owns one of the most profitable bars (with attached French caff) in town.  He runs rings around the other characters, and is a bit of a grafter, but even he is basically a decent sort (aside from wanting to build up a huge bank balance).  Towards the end of the book, he runs for office.  There is a funny moment when suddenly the townsfolk realize that Mr. Smith is going to win, and they all rush to cast their ballot, since they all want to be on the winning side. The sinking of a passenger ferry in the middle of a tiny lake is also unexpectedly comic, but I don't want to give away too much for those that haven't read the book.

As an aside, I'm having terrible trouble reconstructing the rest of the books we read in this class.  Maybe I'll dig up the syllabus one of these days and see which of the books I'd like to reread.  I do recall that my final paper was on Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, and I am just starting to reread this book over the long weekend.  This is by far my favorite Atwood novel out of the five or so I've read (obviously I have a few left to go).

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town

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