From the Vault: April Showers

Tradition dictates that the month of April is known as something of a rainy season. Despite this fact, many of you are probably still bundled up against the wintery chill that has managed to hang around like the last guest at a party. (I’m told that there was snow in Sarnia this weekend. Snow.) But, because we live in hope—even if it’s hope for a rather unpleasant cold drizzle—we’re willing to believe that rain is progress. In keeping with these ‘progressive’ thoughts, here is a list of water-themed books to help you mentally prepare for the forthcoming deluge.


Bitter Lake by Marika Deliyannides

As you might have guessed, the fictional lake plays a major part in developing the backstory and motivations behind Marika Deliyannides’s debut novel. It is at Bitter Lake that a teenaged Zoe makes a mistake that forever changes her family—and that continues to haunt her even when she returns, mid-thirties, successful, married and pregnant. And it is there that she must come to terms with her past before moving on with her own future.


Black River by Kenneth Sherman

This collection of poetry takes as its subject the meandering stream near Sutton, Ontario called the Black River. The recurring image of the river and to water evoke echoes of Margaret Laurence and Virginia Woolf and other classical references, bringing in also disparate subjects like the decimation of Canada’s First Nations, the Holocaust, and the follies and egos of political and literary figures. And this, all within the frame of the river!


The Deep by Mary Swan

The Deep tells the story of twin sisters caught up in Word War I as they embark upon a journey to France. Mary Swan uses water almost as another character, one that evokes strong emotions and has the power to affect the twins and their relationship.


Fire Ship by Marianne Brandis

This fast-moving historical novel brings the war of 1812 to life. From the beginning of the novel, when thirteen-year-old Dan Dobson paddles across the silent bay toward Toronto Island, the water plays a huge role in the development of the story. Marianne Brandis describes battle at sea with a great historical sensibility that blends fact and fiction.


High-Water Mark by Nicole Dixon

Nicole Dixon touches on life in Atlantic Canada the way only an Atlantic Canadian writer can. These ten stories, though not all water-focused, reveal the relationships between women and their friends, lovers and family members, and the challenges and changes that they face. Particularly a propos is the short story “High-Water Mark”, whose language is so lyrical reading it almost feels like reading the waves.


The Grand River by Gerard Brender à Brandis and Marianne Brandis

With fascinating historical and contextual information as well as beautifully intricate wood engravings, The Grand River reveals the ‘private life’ of Ontario’s Heritage River. Particularly interesting is the consideration of ecological issues facing the river valley—issues of water management, urbanization, conservation and restoration are all part of the story that weaves together the fate of the river and its inhabitants.


Sailor Girl by Sheree-Lee Olson

Sailor Girl is a unique coming-of-age story of a young woman who finds an unexpected calling working on the cargo ships that travelling up and down Canada’s Great Lakes. Life aboard the boat is tough, and she makes her share of mistakes, but she creates a home for herself amid the unruly young men and toughminded women who work the lakers, finding friendship, romance and acceptance—and also danger, career politics and heartbreak—in places she would never expect.


The sea with no one in it by Niki Koulouris

You can’t talk about water themes without mentioning Niki Koulouris’s The sea with no one in it. Her poetry takes readers out to sea, each line reflecting the sounds and the seductive ebb and flow of the water. Reading this book is like exploring the ocean from an armchair.


portraitAnd there you have it. A list of water-themed poetry, fiction and short stories to keep you in the rainy April spirit.



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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.