I've discovered a great way to travel this great country of ours - without leaving your porch or backyard. I call it the CanLit Express: Tour Canada through amazing Canadian fiction.
Let's start at the top: Yellowknife.
Elizabeth May's "Nights on Air" succeeds, for me, at doing something few other CanLit titles managed to pull off - to provide a real snapshot of everyday life in Yellowknife beyond trapper lines and isolated mining projects. The characters in May's book work in a regional radio station (you wouldn't be off the mark if you're thinking CBC). Expect descriptive passages about the unforgettable characters, their shenanigans, their tragedies, their desires, losses, their loves. You will, of course, get the requisite descriptions of the northern wilderness.
Next stop on the CanLit Express: Montreal, Quebec
Mordecai Richler's "St. Urbain's Horseman" could function as a well-thumbed Frommers' Travel Guide to the back streets and cafes of Montreal. This bawdy novel, in my eyes, sealed Mordecai Richler's place in the gallery of CanLit icons.
Next: Edmonton, Alberta.
Todd Babiak's Garneau Block is a laugh-out-loud celebration of the quirky side of Edmonton, set in a make-believe neighbourhood near University of Alberta. The zaniness of this bunch of characters is partially fuelled by their seemingly sequestered neighbourhood, where everyone seems to fit in, even, curiously enough, the misfits.
Next stop: rural Ontario.
Kim Eichlin's "Elephants in Winter" explores rural southern Ontario - in winter, where, oh shockers, a herd of elephants reside. In truth, it reminds me of Jungle Zoo, outside Elmvale, Ontario where I grew up. I had the privilege of taking a fiction course with the author at University of Toronto and her descriptions are those of a documentarian.
Next stop: New Brunswick
David Adam Richards' Miramichi trilogy (Nights Below Station Street, Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace, and For Those Who Hunt the Wounded Down) takes you straight to the heart of tough and tumble New Brunswick. There's a melancholy tone to these stories yet Richards also captures the resilience of easterners.
Which do you prefer when travelling? A photo book full of excellent images of the destination, or a guide book or a fiction set in the destination?