My first foray into fiction set in Halifax was in the third of Anne of Green Gables book, Anne of the Island (1915). While I had breathlessly treated my family to a tour of Anne’s haunts on Prince Edward Island as an eight year old, it was only much later that I realized that Anne, like her creator L.M. Montgomery, had a Halifax connection. And I shared something with them both: we were all undergrads at Dalhousie University in Halifax (called Redmond College and Kingsport, respectively, in the novel). I have an article coming out in Women’s Writing about the creation of suburban space in Anne of the Island and will post more about that here when the essay is published. Meanwhile, Sarah Emsley has a wonderful collection of posts on Mongtomery in Nova Scotia, including Halifax.
Visits to the Dal Killam Library Special Collections, searches online, and word-of-mouth suggestions are fleshing out my Halifax reading list. Karen Smith in Special Collections at the Killam is amazingly helpful, greeting me with a stack of books whenever I visit! One of her assignments has been for me to pour over Robert J. Long’s Nova Scotia Authors (1918), a bibliography that accounts for all authors in Nova Scotia whether their writing was literary, scientific, legal, or otherwise. Karen has provided me with literary criticism, history, fiction, a Victorian lady’s album, the list goes on. Next time I head to Special Collections, I’ll be spending some quality time with the greats of early Canadian literary criticism–MacMechan, Pierce, Rhodenizer, Logan and French. Looking forward to seeing what Karen comes up with for me next!
Coming out of my interest in the Romantic period, I am particularly eager to explore the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Joseph Howe (1804-1873), journalist, printer, public servant, and politician, was interested in Nova Scotia geography–he wrote Western and Eastern Rambles: Travel Sketches of Nova Scotia–so on the to do list is to track down any Halifax-specific writing. Thomas Chandler Halliburton (1796-1865) has a chapter on Halifax in The Clockmaker. I am also looking forward to uncovering some now little-known or forgotten gems. I’m going to follow up with Alice C. Jones (1853-1933), who wrote many novels (and was the daughter of A.G. Jones, lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia).
Historical fiction seems like a rich area. At Karen’s recommendation, I’m currently reading The Governor’s Lady (1960) by Nova Scotian historian and historical fiction writer, Thomas Raddall. This story follows Frances Wentworth, wife of John Wentworth, loyalist Governor New Hampshire just before and during the American Revolution, who later holds that post in Nova Scotia. And, of course, the Halifax Explosion of 1917 gets a lot of attention, starting with Hugh MacLennan’s Barometre Rising (1941), and Genevieve Graham’s Tides of Honour (2015) is on my bookshelf. According to this list, Halifax Explosion historical fiction could be a project of its own!
My first taste of more contemporary fiction, Anne Emery’s Barrington Street Blues (2007), has whetted my appetite for more and I’m using this list as a reading guide.
Do you have any suggestions for my Halifax reading list? Any favourite Halifax reads? And, more importantly, should the hashtag be #Halifiction or #Halit?