Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The English Stories ... in England

A blogger over in great Britian has discovered Cynthia Flood's English Stories and had the following to say about them:

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.

This was another title which could have quite easily made the Globe 100, or a range of other best -of lists -- and did, I believe, over at Kerry Clare's Pickle Me This. Word of mouth, that best of all possible reviews, however, seems to be helping The English Stories find its audience: if you've yet to do so, go and find a copy.

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