The Bookshelf

As a not-for-profit organization eager to promote Canada’s wonderful writers, Fog Lit hosts various readings and workshops from October – August in order to enact our promotional mission year-round, in addition to our annual festival. It is our hope that these events will keep Saint Johners passionate about reading and writing, and about Canadian literature.

Below is a list of the off-season’s featured books, accompanied by their summaries. For more great bookshelves, including lists of featured books from previous Festivals, check out our Goodreads page.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Goose Lane Editions)

From the acclaimed author of Daniel O’Thunder comes a rollicking, bawdy, and haunting novel about love and redemption, death and resurrection.

The great metropolis of London swaggers with Regency abandon as nineteen-year-old Will Starling returns from the Napoleonic Wars having spent five years assisting a military surgeon. Charming, brash, and damaged, Will is helping his mentor build a medical practice — and a life — in the rough Cripplegate area. To do so requires an alliance with the Doomsday Men: body snatchers that supply surgeons and anatomists with human cadavers.

After a grave robbing goes terribly awry and a prostitute is accused of murder, Will becomes convinced of an unholy conspiracy that traces its way back to Dionysus Atherton, the brightest of London’s rising surgical stars. Wild rumours begin to spread of experiments upon the living and of uncanny sightings in London’s dark streets.

Will’s obsessive search for the truth twists through alleyways, brothels, and charnel houses, towards a shattering discovery — about Dionysus Atherton and about Will, himself. Steeped in scientific lore, laced with dark humour, Will Starling is historical fiction like none other.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Breakwater Books Ltd.)

Finton Moon is an unusual child who feels like an alien. A gentle soul growing up in the rough town of Darwin, Newfoundland, he lives with his strict Catholic mother and grandmother, lawless father and three older brothers. While his grandmother has him ‘right ready for the seminary,’ Finton’s interest lies in books, nature and solitude. He is secretly in love with the unattainable Mary Connelly, while eschewing the attention of the equally misfit Alicia Dredge, who adores him from afar. In Finton’s life, there are monsters everywhere, including Bridie Battenhatch, the crone next door who harbours secrets about the Moon family she will share in exchange for the boy’s company, while all his heroes come from books and TV.

But Finton’s parents quickly discover that he is extraordinary, for he has been born with the ability to heal with his hands. As he grows older, his miraculous talent becomes more apparent and useful, even as it isolates him further from those around him. While Finton Moon wants nothing more than to belong, he lives in a world that sees him as other, and his greatest fear is that he will be trapped forever with these people who both misunderstand and abuse him.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of House of Anansi Press)

Winner of Canada Reads 2013 and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine’s Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O’Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the “February” that persists in Helen’s mind and heart.

Writing at the peak of her form, her steadfast refusal to sentimentalize coupled with an almost shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters’ physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore gives us her strongest work yet. Here is a novel about complex love and cauterizing grief, about past and present and how memory knits them together, about a fiercely close community and its universal struggles, and finally about our need to imagine a future, no matter how fragile, before we truly come home. This is a profound, gorgeous, heart-stopping work from one of our best writers.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Goose Lane Editions)

1593. Queen Elizabeth reigns from the throne while two rival spymasters — Sir Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex — plot from the shadows. Their goal? To control succession upon the aged queen’s death. The man on which their schemes depend? Christopher Marlowe, a cobbler’s son from Canterbury who has defied expectations and become an accomplished poet and playwright. Now that the plague has closed theatres, Marlowe must resume the work for which he was originally recruited: intelligence and espionage.

Fighting to stay one step ahead in a dizzying game that threatens the lives of those he holds most dear, Marlowe comes to question his allegiances and nearly everything he once believed. As tensions mount, he is tossed into an impossible bind. He must choose between paths that lead either to wretched guilt and miserable death or to love and honour.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Nimbus Publishing)

In this deceptively simple children’s picture book, a pair of award-winning storytellers share the joys of winter. A lyrical prose poem, The Snow Knows introduces readers of all ages to animals both domestic (a tabby cat by the woodstove) and wild (a slinking lynx, a choir of coyotes), celebrating wilderness and outdoor play.

With gorgeous, whimsical hide-and-seek illustrations, this beautiful book is destined to be a perennial winter favourite.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Harper Perennial)

It was, by all accounts, a slug-ugly crime. Brothers George and Rufus Hamilton, in a robbery gone wrong, drunkenly bludgeoned a taxi driver to death with a hammer. It was 1949, and the two siblings, part Mi’kmaq and part African, were both hanged for the killing.

Those facts are also skeletons in George Elliott Clarke’s family closet. Both repelled and intrigued by his ancestral cousins’ deeds, which he only learned about from his mother shortly before her death, Clarke set out to discover just what kind of forces would reduce men to crime, violence and, ultimately, murder. His findings took shape in the 2001 Governor General’s Award-winning Execution Poems and culminates brilliantly in George and Rue.

The novel shifts seamlessly back into the killers’ pasts, recounting a bleak and sometimes comic tale of victims of violence who became killers, a black community too poor and too shamed to assist its downtrodden members, and a white community bent on condemning all blacks as dangerous outsiders. George and Rue is a book about a death that brims with fierce vitality and dark humour. Infused with the sensual, rhythmic beauty that defines Clarke’s writing, it is a remarkable literary debut.


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Goose Lane Editions)

Lorna always wanted to stand out, but her career as a competitive swimmer was cut short by a knee injury. Cara, her daughter, tries hard to blend in, but when she has to fill in for her brother at a school pageant, she is overwhelmed by terror. Lorna is vain about her ability to shut out distractions. Cara can’t control her scary thoughts. And while Lorna tries her best to move past life’s early disappointments, Cara picks at the cracks in her family’s story.

Spanning two decades, Catch My Drift follows mother and daughter through life changes, big and small, and reveals that, despite our shared experiences, we each live a private story.

 


(Cover & Summary courtesy of Wolsak and Wynn Publishers Ltd)

Catherine Owen’s latest collection is an extended love letter to her poetic influences and to the real-world objects, people, places, and situations that fascinate her. Inspired by the work of John Ashbery, among others, in Dear Ghost, Owen returns to the kooky imagery and humorous style she last visited with her award-winning collection Frenzy. These poems entertain immensities of sound while plumbing the depths of the psyche’s surrealities, content to enter a dreamlike realm where meaning is found in the nonsensical, the utterly human and the everyday. While Owen gathers her subjects from the mundane – work, sex, acquaintances, and art – she imbues them with the extraordinary quirks and uncertainties that only language can create, and the effects are dizzying.