The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor

October 15, 2010

CBC Radio One’s annual program “Canada Reads” provides a forum for five Canadian titles to be debated and defended by five noteworthy Canadians.  After each debate, a novel is voted out of the running until only one remains. This selection is deemed the essential novel for all Canadians to enjoy together. If you’ve not tuned in before, the debates are entertaining, witty, and occasionally feisty. Jian Ghomeshi as the host is brilliant at directing the conversation and unveiling unique perspectives and impressions.  The tenth edition of Canada Reads will air in February 2011.  In honour of this anniversary, rather than simply announce the 5 novels to be debated, Canadian readers have been asked to submit their choices for a list of  “Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade” (published after January 1, 2000).  This list will be narrowed down over the next few months and the top selections will be debated.

I count many Canadian books among my favourites but a particular standout for me published in the last decade is The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor. It was one of our book club selections and our members were unanimously enthused. The novel, as the title suggests, follows the many incarnations of one Charlotte Taylor – an amazingly resilient woman and pioneer as she ventures forth and establishes herself in early Canada. The Ottawa Citizen states: “The sweep is epic, a romantic narrative filled with passion, rebellion, adventure, heartbreak, triumph, legacy. It’s a heck of a story.” Sally Armstrong, a founding editor of Canadian Living magazine and editor at Homemaker’s and Macleans magazines, has taken her family’s lore relating to a great-great-great Grandmother and with wonderful imagination filled in the archival gaps with memorable characters and adventures. The fact that the tale itself is based on a woman whose pluckiness inspired generations to recount and share the legend of her just adds to the charm of the book. 

I will submit my request for The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor to be considered as a Canada Reads Top 40 Essential Canadian Novel … but in the meantime I hope you get a head start and enjoy it yourself!

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