nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for March 2021

Book Review: Meadowlands – A Chronicle of the Scovil Family’ by Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund

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I have lived in New Brunswick for more than 40 years and love its rural nature and the landscapes dominated by its waterways. In our travels on the weekends, we have spent lots of time in the Oromocto to Cambridge Narrows corridor. For many years we had a cabin in the woods just over the hill from the Narrows. In the last ten years we have had a cabin south of Gagetown. As a result, we have used the Gagetown ferry many, many times. It’s an enjoyable crossing of the Saint John River, like a mini-cruise, with lots to see. I always love disembarking at Foshay Farms. From there, we continue towards Jemseg, watching for turtles in the ponds, osprey on their nests, Canada geese foraging in the fields. One year we watched a glossy ibis in a marshy area along the road, a rare sighting for New Brunswick.

Because of my familiarity with the area, I have looked forward to reading a copy of Virginia’s book Meadowlands, former name of the homestead where the Gagetown ferry lands, the Foshay Farms mentioned above. I also looked forward to the book because Virginia is a member of my writers’ group Wolf Tree Writers. Through the years, Virginia has talked about her Aunt Bessie’s home and workshopped many of the passages in the book.

Meadowlands – A Chronicle of the Scovil Family’ by Virginia Bliss Bjerkelund (Woodstock: Chapel Street Editions, 2020)

An interesting, readable, often humorous, portrayal of life in the early years of the 20th century.

Meadowlands is an enjoyable read, presenting the life of a family after the death of the mother of the five Scovil children. Major characters in the book are Aunt Bessie (Elizabeth Scovil), a professional nurse who knew Florence Nightingale, and Mary Scovil, the youngest daughter in the family and the author’s mother. The book follows the lives of the family, detailing their adventures and travels. The reader is assisted by a map of the area, a family tree and photos of the people in the book.

A remarkable characteristic of the book is its portrayal of women’s lives in the early 1900s. Elizabeth Scovil, a well-known writer in her field and a professional nurse, was an unusual woman, ahead of her time, independent, self-supporting and a source of strength and guidance for her family.  Other women’s roles are also presented including the women who taught school, public and private. The division of labour into men’s work and women’s work is a thread running through the book. The lack of control of a woman over her own life, especially in matters of romance, provides some interesting story-lines.

My favorite aspect of Meadowlands is the attention it pays to the transportation of the times. Travels to Saint John and Windsor, and into other parts of  Canada and the United States were a regular part of the Scovil year. In particular, the local travels to Gagetown (for school, medical care and various groceries) are interesting for their seasonal nature. In winter, a sled and skates were the preferred way of crossing the river. In summer, a row boat was the norm. The family’s adventures include early innovations in transportation: the first motor cars and the addition of an Evinrude motor to the Scovil boat are memorable.

Meadowlands is an enjoyable book, written in an engaging style with the author’s voice clear and consistent. The reader’s appetite will be inspired throughout by descriptions of the foods eaten and images of sipping cordials on the veranda or turning the crank to make fresh strawberry ice cream.

Meadowlands has had the honor of being short-listed in the New Brunswick Book Awards for the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Non-fiction Award!

You can find your copy of Meadowlands at your local bookstore, at the Chapel Street website here, or at Amazon here .

Enjoy your reading!

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 31, 2021 at 3:56 pm

A Book Review: Where’s Home by Jan Fancy Hull

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I am originally from Alberta, but left for Nova Scotia as a teenager and remained there for twenty years until I took my first job. Although I have not lived there for years, Nova Scotia has a way of tugging at my heart-strings. I love the ocean, the rural landscape of the Annapolis Valley, the silver waters of the Bras d’Or Lakes. My Kaye Eliot Mysteries are set in the Rawdon Hills of Nova Scotia. For these reasons, I was so happy to hear about a writing project by my friend Jan Hull, a book exploring the ideas of people who consider Nova Scotia ‘home.’

Where’s Home? by Jan Fancy Hull (Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia: Moose House Publications, 2020)

An honest and charming mixture of memory, experience and connection.

This book explores the difficult idea of acceptance (how you accept your community/landscape/province and how it accepts you). Through anecdote and survey response, the book explores the idea of ‘home’—where you live, why you live there, who you are, when you arrived, and how you seek to be part of community.

A reader will begin the book expecting a series of anecdotes about down-east warmth and soothing ocean vistas. But, as the cover states, the answer to Where’s Home? can be complicated. Here you will find stories of people who love Nova Scotia, would never live anywhere else. You will find stories of those who love the ocean, the rural landscape, the home cooking and the welcoming people. You will also find stories of those who hate cold and snowy winters or have ambitions for urban success in other parts of the world.

The book does not avoid difficult subject matter but discusses problems of ‘home’ throughout Nova Scotia’s history—the loss of home by indigenous peoples who did not surrender title to their lands, the loss of home by Acadian people who were deported by the English, people who lost homes when a federal park was established, people whose idea of home has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The anecdotes and survey answers in the book consider the complex idea of CFA (Come From Away). Some new arrivals have been welcomed with plates of scones. Others have not found acceptance and the author considers some of the barriers to feeling at home—local colloquialisms, lack of business opportunities, even racism.

My favorite idea in the book?—a way to make people feel welcomed: organized Campground Hosts at Kejimkujic Park, unofficial community greeters, local refugee organizations, local people all set to welcome newcomers to a home in Nova Scotia.

As you read Where’s Home? you will compare your experiences with those in the book, even if you are not from Nova Scotia—the experiences related are applicable to any place where we live or wish to return. These are stories of entrepreneurs, artists, immigrants, people of various cultures and backgrounds. They are told with consideration, empathy, humor and understanding.

Where’s Home? is available at Amazon here, at your local bookstore, or by contacting Jan directly at the website here.

Enjoy your reading during these uncertain spring days.

All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 30, 2021 at 7:22 pm

Land Between the Furrows: now available!

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The third book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series, Land Between the Furrows, is now available from Amazon in paperback and e-book!

Kaye and her family are again solving a mystery in a small community in Nova Scotia. They have found a stack of old post cards and clues to the whereabouts of a valuable stone. All they have to do is discover what is meant by those words: ‘furrow’ and ‘land.’

Land Between the Furrows is available from Amazon here. You will be able to find it at Westminster Books in Fredericton by the end of March. There will be a launch! Stay tuned!

All my best.

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 9, 2021 at 11:00 am

Book Cover – Land Between the Furrows

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I have been working on the cover painting for the new book in the Kaye Eliot Mysteries: Land Between the Furrows.

First, I do a pencil drawing of the idea I have for the cover. In this book, grind stones from a local grist mill figure in the mystery.

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Then I do a painting, based on the pencil drawing. This painting is in acrylics, 16″ by 20″.

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Finally, I create the cover. This is, for me, the hardest step. I take the photo of the painting into GIMP, crop to get the correct dimensions (6″ by 9″) and scale the image to 360 dpi (pixels per inch). Then I bring the image into the KDP Cover Creater and add the text and so on.

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The book will be ready to go live on March 15, 2021.

All my best,

Jane

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