I would probably never have come across this Canadian writer had it not been for my friend Janes recommendation and so Im grateful she mentioned it. The book was interesting for many reasons most notably because it was written in the form of an epistolary a narrative technique that consists entirely of letters, diaries and personal reflections. It seems like it would be a tricky genre for a writer to tackle but Wright has succeeded in using it to great effect to tell the story of two sisters Clara and Nora Callan whose lives unfold in a series of letters that fly back and forth between them after Nora leaves the little Ontario town she grew up in to pursue a career as radio actress in New York. Her older sister remains behind and while it may appear that Nora has chosen the most glamorous option, its Clara whose wit, intelligence and fierce determination to be her own person makes her stand out as the more interesting of the two sisters. I was intrigued by how vividly Wright managed to convey a sense of time and place glamorous New York and stodgy little Whitfield, Ontario in the 1930s between the depression and the beginning of WWII. And the fact that he did it all through letters and personal reflections made it all the more realistic. (The letters were a sobering reminder of what has happened to the art of personal correspondence now that its been replaced by e-mail!) Being a fan of old time radio, thanks to Sirius satellite, I enjoyed the references to the radio dramas and soap operas of the period and how they were produced. But what made this book such a good read was its power to evoke strong women characters, each searching for something solid to hang on to in their lives despite disappointment, betrayal and more than their share of bad luck. I was surprised at how well a male author was able to use the voices of women to write this book and to do such a good job capturing their perspectives and insights. That could be another reason the novel has won several prestigious Canadian prizes for fiction.
Richard B Wright's story of two sisters (Clara & Nora) from a small town in Canada prior to WWII presents two strong female characters, one "making it" in New York, the other remaining home--a teacher and a leading female member of her community. Told through the correspondence between the 2 sisters, it describes life before the war and addresses sexual mores of the day. One will not forget either of them, especially Clara. Winner of Canada's Giller Prize
The chronicles of two sisters lives between 1934 and 1938. A mesmerizing tribute to friendship and sisterhood, romance and redemption, written with such insight and passion that the characters' stories will remain with you long after you have read the last page. A truly enjoyable read.