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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Barbara Jo’s Summer Picks

Summer is the best part of the year, especially here!  Swimming, ice cream, peaches, raspberries, warm evenings, star gazing, watching quail, more swimming, more ice cream...(Put on repeat!)

Here are two novels I like that are set in other beautiful summer places:
Tove Jansson’s “The Summer Book

Written by the Finnish author who wrote the children’s classics about the Moomins,  this novel written for adults,  is very different from the beloved tales of the hippopotamus-like trolls.    An artist and grandmother spends the summer with her six-year-old granddaughter, Sophia, on a tiny island off the coast of Finland.   Sophia is mourning the recent death of her mother.    They pass their days exploring tide pools and talking about nature and life – talking about everything except their feelings about the mother’s death and the love they have for each other. Both are fiercely independent and temperamental.  Jansson captures that unique friendship that sometimes develops between the very old and the very young.   Totally unsentimental, this is a book of gentle wisdom and humour.   It’s been called “a perfection of the small, quiet read”.  

David Macfarlane’s “Summer Gone 

Set among the islands and lakes of Ontario’s “cottage country” and farther North,   “Summer Gone”  is the story of a divorced father and his son who are trying to mend their difficult relationship on a canoe trip.  The father reflects on his own boyhood canoe trips with his father and other trips he took with his ex-wife, as much as he is in the present with his own son.   It’s a story of three generations of lost summers and how one event breaks the estrangement between father and son.  Beautifully written, and Macfarlane describes Northern Ontario so well it makes you want to sing Neil Young’s “Helpless”. 

( If you are looking for car chases, whodunit’s, exploding planets , or any kind of plot-driven book,  these aren’t good choices.   But if you are looking for something slower and more descriptive of human lives and hearts, I would recommend either of these novels. )

My recommendation for THE Okanagan summer movie :  Sandy Wilson’s My American Cousin. 
Photo from
It’s a story based on Wilson’s girlhood experiences in Naramata in the 1960s.  It is evocative of growing up anywhere in the Okanagan, and bang-on with the small details of that time!   

I saw the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, just after I had survived my first gritty & humid summer there.  The opening scene is shot at sunset  from the west side of Okanagan Lake,   with a sweeping view over the lake, then the Naramata bench, then an orchard (with that distinctive noise of the overhead sprinklers used in those days), then a busy family home lit up with all the windows open.  I burst out in sobs as it made me so homesick!  The rest of the movie also made me weep - with laughter.   A funny and gentle coming-of-age story that anyone will enjoy, including young adults.
Happy Summer, y’all!
Barbara Jo

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