Halifax Fiction

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?

Watch this space

Two months into my postdoc at Dal, I’m going to plunge into the world of blogging. Thanks to my former prof and current colleague, Rohan Maitzen, for encouragement and inspiration in the form of her wonderful blog, Novel Readings.

I’ll be using this space to talk about my main project, London’s Green Geographies, 1769-1842. Green spaces and environmental health are pressing concerns in the increasingly urbanized twenty-first century. The first people to experience the health challenges of a modern megacity were the inhabitants of Romantic-period London. My project is the first major study of the cultural history of urban environmental health in Romantic-period Britain. It will explore how Romantic London residents used green spaces to negotiate environmental change, preserve their health and create a sense of identity.

Expect to see a lot about Halifax fiction here in the next few weeks. In my postdoc proposal, I proposed an adjacent project on Halifax green spaces. I’m excitedly exploring this area new to me. So far I’ve read Anne Emery’s mystery novel, Barrington Street Blues (2007), Hugh MacLennan’s novel of the Halifax Explosion, Barometre Rising (1941), and am currently deep into the American Revolution as portrayed in Thomas H. Raddall’s The Governor’s Lady (1960). I see this as a start to a bigger, transatlantic project involving urban Atlantic Canadian literature.

I’m also learning about digital humanities and am looking forward to further exploring the tech possibilities for historical projects that intersect with space, place, and geography.