Four grown kids (and their wonderful partners), six delightful grandchildren, constant, long-time partner. A retired academic, I've recently moved with my husband from a waterfront home on a very small (Canadian) West Coast island to a condo in the city (Vancouver). Still reading compulsively, though, and keen to discover what new priorities emerge, what interests persist in this urban life after 60!
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
The Halifax Explosion -- Alison Watt's fictional rendering, 100 years later
Currently pretty distracted with trying to get ready for Friday's flight, but today is the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion, and I can't bear to let the day go by without telling you about my good friend Alison Watt'sdebut novel, Dazzle Patterns, centred around that devastating event. (While this is Alison's debut novel, she's had several books of her poetry published and an earlier memoir of hers won the Edna Staebler award for creative non-fiction.)
I wish I had time to give this engaging work the review it deserves, but instead, I've cut-and-pasted what I said about it on Facebook a few weeks ago:
"I downloaded a copy of my friend Alison Watt's new novel, Dazzle Patterns, from Kobo on the weekend and finished it last night. I'm going to buy a hard copy, and she'll sign it for me later, but I was too impatient to wait to find it in the stores. And my impatience was justified. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, and very well-researched novel set in Halifax during World War I, just after the devastating explosion. Characters you will love move through challenging circumstances, explore possibilities for pursuing passions -- romantic, sure, but also for art, craft, geology -- and for balancing autonomy, individual choices within various communities. The settings delight as well, and of course Alison's gorgeous prose -- you can see her poet working here, but deftly, always surrendering to narrative demands. You will see Alison the painter as well in the novel's visuality. Okay, yeah, I liked the book, and not just because she's popped my name in the Acknowledgements. . . "
"Currently reading my good friend Alison Watt's book Dazzle Patterns -- set in World War I, in Halifax, the period just after the explosion. The protagonist is a young woman who's working as a flaw checker in the glass works when the explosion happens -- her fiancé is in the trenches at Passchendale, Arthur Lismer appears in the page (do you know his paintings of ship's [sic!!] camouflaged by dazzle patterns?) teaching at the School of Art, and there's a young man--a glassblower-- who's grown up in Canada but whose parents emigrated with him from Germany, so those complications you might imagine during wartime. . . . I think you'd like it."
Please excuse the cobbled-together nature of today's post, and I hope it might intrigue you just enough to check out the novel for yourself. It's quite wonderfully rich, truly. Should you need more convincing, here's a CBC Books article in which Alison talks a bit about her motivation for embarking on this work of historical fiction and of what she gleaned in the research and writing of it.