The Years That Followed – Canada preview: Perfect Books Ottawa

 In Events, News

One of the joys of travelling and getting to experience other countries is discovering the wealth of books and writers that otherwise might have remained below my radar.

Some thirty-five years ago, when I first visited Canada, I dived deep into the wonderful public libraries of Toronto and surfaced in the company of Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro: constant companions during my writing and reading life ever since.

I will always remember the delight of reading Margaret Atwood’s Life Before Man for the first time.

Back in the nineteen-seventies, Ireland’s literary tradition was steeped in rural life, a life that was alien to me as a young, working, city-dwelling woman, living at a time when all sorts of traditional roles were in the process of change.

Reading novels and short stories that dealt with life from the perspective of modern women – with their friendships, their lovers, their relationships with their children, the challenges of meshing family and working life so that sanity might just be possible – such writing was a revelation.

Later, I would discover the work of Carol Shields and it’s still a sadness that there are no more novels of hers to look forward to: I’ll just have to go back and start with The Stone Diaries all over again. That was the first Carol Shields novel that I read and it was such a long time ago: perhaps I’ll be able to experience it as though for the first time.

Novels speak to us in different ways, depending on when we read them – or reread them.

The Years That Followed Canada preview: Perfect Books Ottawa

Last evening, the 13th July, I visited Perfect Books in Ottawa.

Perfect Books is an independent bookshop located in the heart of the downtown area and owned by Jim Sherman, a passionate reader himself.

It is an Aladdin’s cave of a bookstore with a tempting array of titles. I got happily absorbed there before the event that Jim was hosting to welcome me and The Years That Followed Canada preview event.

We had a lovely evening.

I’m always struck by the warmth of the Canadian welcome: Ireland is supposed to be the land of céad míle fáilte but in my book, that honour also belongs to Canada.

From Austin Comerton’s interview with me on Sunday, to Jim Sherman’s event yesterday, to the interest and enthusiasm of readers: Canada is a good place to be.

Chatting to readers last night introduced me to the work of Carmen Aguirre.

Carmen fled to Canada with her family, following Pinochet’s violent 1973 coup in Chile.

Some years later, she returned to Chile with her sister and parents and, at eighteen years of age, became part of the Chilean resistance.

Her first book Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter became a Number 1 bestseller in Canada some five years back.

Her latest memoir, Mexican Hooker # 1 – a reference to the stereotypical roles she was given as an actor in her early twenties – looks like an extraordinary follow-up.

So, for the times I can carve out to sit in the shade and read, Carmen Aguirre will be my companion. From discovering revelatory fiction three and a half decades ago to coming across bold, brave and wise non-fiction in 2016, this feels something like completing a circle.

The years That Followed Canada preview - Perfect Books - With Helen Hansen and Jim Sherman

The years That Followed Canada preview – Perfect Books – With Helen Hansen and Jim Sherman

The years That Followed Canada preview - Perfect Books - With Jim Sherman

The years That Followed Canada preview – Perfect Books – With Jim Sherman

The years That Followed Canada preview - Perfect Books - Signing session

The years That Followed Canada preview – Perfect Books – Signing session

The years That Followed Canada preview - Perfect Books - Carmen Aguirre's books

The years That Followed Canada preview – Perfect Books – Carmen Aguirre’s books

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Canada The Years That Followed preview - 2016 - Royal St George Theatre Niagara-on-the-LakeCatherine Dunne author - photo Noel Hillis