Canadian Novels: Name Your Favourite and Least Favourite

I’d be interested to hear other Dopers’ take on this question of Canadian literature.

I think my favourite Canadian novel is Who Has Seen the Wind? by W.O. Mitchell, and my least favourite is The Stone Angel by Margaret Lawrence.

It’s a bit odd, because both are set in roughly the same period, the Depression on the Prairies, yet I enjoyed Mitchell’s book - I found it ultimately optimistic, even though there’s a pretty significant death in it. As a result of that book, I’ve read others by Mitchell.

Laurence’s book I just found gloomy and angry, without anything to make me want to spend any more time with that particular author.

And by an odd quirk, PiperMum knew both Bill Mitchell and Peggy Lawrence.

(Runner-up for most fave, by the way, is Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies.)

So - thoughts? opinions? and any recommendations?

I think my favourite, if I had to pick one, might be Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. At least, it’s probably the Canadian novel I’ve read the most times.

I didn’t care for The Stone Angel either, but it was required reading in high school English.

Fave is THE MANTICORE by Robertson Davies. Least fave is tougher. BEAUTIFUL LOSERS by Leonard Cohen maybe.

Favorite is the entire Deptford trilogy, can’t single out The Manticore from the other two.

Nothing comes to mind for least favorite, let me get back to you on that.

Amen to this. That was one of the most frustratingly boring books I’ve ever read.

I’ve read only the first book of the Deptford trilogy, but it was pretty good. The lead character’s musings on Wilgefortis sparked in me a lifelong interest in hagiography.

They’re not really novels, but I rather liked Farley Mowat’s early work; in particular The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be and The Boat who Wouldn’t Float.

Stephen Leacock remains a favourite, especially his Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

I don’t think I have a least favourite Canadian work. Usually, I’ve stopped reading them partway through before they get into the “least favourite” category.

By strange coincidence, I’m in the midst of re-reading the Deptford Trilogy right now. Somehow in our storage/moving adventures, a large box of Can Lit has disappeared. I suspect it accidentally went to a friend’s church book sale when we were culling the library. Either that, or somewhere in the basement there’s a mislabeled box of Margret Atwood, Robertson Davies and Timothy Findlay books having it off with one another… A friend who is ‘down-sizing’ gave me all of her Robertson Davies for free.

It’s a tough question. I think for many of us in our forties and older, we have unpleasant memories of being forced to read something dreary, and it has coloured our impression of Canadian literature ever since. Strangely, we’re more accepting of all the other stuff on the required reading for high school list - we may well come back to Shakespeare, maybe we come to accept Thomas Hardy or Charlotte Brontë, but the pain of reading about someone in the North End of Winnipeg who is always poor and cold sticks with us.

Too bad - one of the great things of the last 40 years has been the expansion of Canadian writing into all genres. Mysteries - Howard Engel, Louise Penny, Kathy Reichs, Lyn Hamilton; Science Fiction - Robert Sawyer, Karl Schroeder, Spider Robinson; Fantasy - Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay as well as the blossoming of ‘serious’ fiction - Ann-Marie Macdonald, Carol Shields, David Richard Adams, Miriam Toews… The field has never been richer, and the themes have expanded beyond our quest for identity in the wilderness of the north.

Which is why it’s funny that I’m stuck between two favourites, one of which is Gabrielle Roy’s 'La Montagne Secrète, which deals with a painter’s search for his identity in the wilderness of the North. The other is Michael Ondaatje’s ‘In the Skin of a Lion’.

Least favourite - really hard to say. A couple of recent novels, ‘The Life of Pi’ and ‘Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures’, I felt were hugely overrated, but that’s not the same thing at all. I wouldn’t have been disappointed in them if they hadn’t been built up so much. Maybe ‘As For Me and My House’ by Sinclair Ross will bear the brunt of my wrath - another of those Grade 11 required reading jobs with the hideous cover that was too small to hide Tolkien, which was about the only thing I wanted to read in those days anyway.

I’m out of time, but I’m thoroughly enjoying having this discussion.
ETA: I’ve managed to exclude Paul Quarrington, who is usually dismissed as writing light, humourous novels, but who also has themes of mortality and questing spirituality in society’s losers.

I loved The Deptford Trilogy and Rebel Angels, and am quite fond of most of Guy Gavriel Kay’s works. But I couldn’t get through Louise Penny’s first mystery, though I wanted to like it, and have never been able to read through any Margaret Laurence.

Gotta put a plug in for the *Anne of Green Gables *books!

I fucking love Margaret Atwood, and my favorite novels of hers are The Robber Bride, Alias Grace (the least Atwood-y of all her novels, but it’s fantastic), and The Blind Assassin.

What counts as a Canadian novel–one set in Canada, or written by a Canadian, or written by a guy born in the U.S. but living in Canada? IE–is Spider Robinson eligible? Cuz if he is, I’d nominate one of his Callahan’s series…but they are set in the U.S.

My favourite recent novel would be Life of Pi, it captured my imagination in a way that most books don’t. A Handmaid’s Tale topped the list before that. As a kid I enjoyed Who Has Seen the Wind. Chalk up another who didn’t like Stone Angel.

Le Ministre de l’au-delà: You left my favourites off your Mystery list, L.R. Wright and Eric Wright (unrelated).

I really could not decide – there are so many terrific Canadian novels.

As far as Canadian novelists go, Atwood comes out on top for me (did my thesis on her works), but even then, there is no lack of tremendously talented Canadian novelists.

How could I forget the Anne books? And *The Story Girl *and Blue Castle all the others? Comfort reads!

Changes regularly. Currently:

Favourite English: The Age of Longing, Richard B. Wright

Favourite French: Chère voisine, Chrystine Brouillet (not the best novel, by any means, but boy, was it a fun read)

Least Favourite, French and English: Le Coeur est un muscle involontaire (The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle), Monique Proulx. It’s really the only Canadian novel I’ve read that I didn’t enjoy at all. It was given to me in the English translation. It was terrible. I read most of it again in French just to see if the translation was the problem. It wasn’t.

I’m an Atwood fan, too - I love Alias Grace and The Year of the Flood. My least liked Canadian book would definitely have to be Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley. Man, am I ever sorry I persevered with that one.

If you’re allowing books set in Canada by non-Canadians, my favourite would be Voyageurs by Margaret Elphinstone.

I’ve had Who Has Seen the Wind for years but haven’t read it. I loved Stone Angel, all the Manawaka books, actually. Liked Alias, Grace, hated Oryx and Crake, totally misunderstood Blind Assassin.

Deptford is my favorite from Davies.

I think Arthur Slade is Canadian. He wrote a fantastic YA novel Dust, which reminded me a lot of Ray Bradbury.

Isn’t Leif Enger Canadian? I guess I should have looked this stuff up before posting. I like him too.

If you asked 12-year-old me what my favourite Canadian novel was, I might have said “How I Spent My Summer Holidays” by W.O. Mitchell. Of course, I only remember the extended scene where the protagonist is watching a class full of girls swimming nekkid at the ol’ watering hole. That gave me plenty of food for thought, so to speak. :wink:

I’ll put in another vote for Robertson Davies for favorite Canadian novelist. My favorite book by him is What’s Bred in the Bone, but I liked all of his books I read very much, including all the ones mentioned above.

Otherwise I can’t completely remember what authors I like (or dislike) are Canadian. If I have to look up Wikipedia’s list (or similar) of Canadian authors to tell, does it count? :wink:

I remember one book I read that was specifically French Canadian and had been translated, by Elisabeth Vonarburg. That one was very good.

I suppose a writer I don’t find very good, but still enjoyable to read, who is Canadian is Robert Sawyer.