Posted By Sandra Alland

I'm watching a show about how chronic disease is way higher in deprived communities. A major study about Scotland shows that huge socioeconomic changes since the 1950s are responsible for Scotland having the highest rate of heart disease in Western Europe. It seems that hopelessness, stress and poverty are more important factors in bad health than beer, smoking and deep fried crap. This show is depressing me. Scotland depresses me. Speaking of colonial fallout, I'm feeling quite homesick, or maybe just sick of "Great" Britain.

Partially because of reading The English Stories by Cynthia Flood. It's a fantastic collection of linked stories about an 11-year-old Canadian named Amanda who is uprooted and sent to a girls' school in 1950s England. Though the book is not set in Canada, Flood evokes Canada in a beautiful yet unsentimental way.

Flood examines the devastation of colonialism in a complex manner, subtly and brilliantly creating links between England's subjugation of Canada, Ireland and Nigeria. Amanda's chosen connection with Canada's First Nations (despite her own parents' racism and indifference) adds another lush layer to this quiet yet persistent background music. Flood also avoids the potentially bad Canadian cliche of the coming-of-age story by switching the focus of several stories from the little girl to other characters in the narrative. This creates a depth and complexity that the story would otherwise lack. One of the most exquisite parts is when we switch to the point of view of an Irish man who sometimes teaches at the school; we see his struggle between English and Irish identity, and the racism he both experiences and inflicts. In places the book is heartbreaking; Flood creeps up on you in unexpected ways. Special thanks to the lovely Hungry Girl, who put this book into my hands. xo


 
2 Comment(s):
cynthia flood said...
Hello Sandra, and thank you so much for your comments on English Stories. That kind Hungry Girl sent your review on to me -- it was a fine surprise! It pleases me very much that you found the parallels between Irish/First Nations/Nigerian like "background music." That's exactly what I wanted to play. And also it was good to know that you found the treatment of Canada successful. I couldn't let it get too big but wanted it to be present, often. I'll ask my publishers, Biblioasis Press, to put your comments on their blog, and will provide a link to you on my own website. Again my thanks. I'm glad to have been introduced to your blog and you -- best wishes, Cynthia
December 16, 2009 04:00:26
 
Hungry Girl said...
You're welcome! I will send this mini-review to Cynthia, toute de suite. Btw, I'e out out a call for tiny seasonal stories, happy sad or entirely bitter, on my blog....perhaps you will post something? We miss you, over here...come visit soon!
December 15, 2009 11:10:08
 
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