In Canada, many of us grew up reading about Anne of Green Gables, a fictional early 20th century girl who became part of our cultural identity and childhood memories.
In this 21st century, allow me to introduce Sara, a Canadian Saga, written by Audrey Austin from Elliot Lake, Ontario. For first-time novelist, Austin, the experience of “Letting her [Sara] out into the world was like watching my first child go off to kindergarten; hopeful yet frightening”. After reading this all-to-brief novel, Audrey Austin’s hopes have been well-founded.
A glimpse at the cover image by Susan Krupp takes one into the setting of this historical fiction with its early 1900’s clothing styles and older wooden buildings. Rustic and sepia toned, the graphic carries readers back to the early 20th century in a story that follows main character Sara from 1916 to the 50s.
The Maritime setting of Prince Edward Island is home to ten-year old Sara and her family. She grows to adulthood, as does Roy from Springhill, Nova Scotia, through difficult economic times which, eventually, lead to mid-century Ontario.
Austin has integrated the spirit of the Eastern Canadian cultural location with mention of fiddles and step dances, games of cards and crokinole that passed the time in the pre-social media era.
In this book, family relationships play a central part of the story, as in the character of Sara’s mother, Rebecca, a strong minded woman, challenged by harsh times and the struggle to raise a family with her husband.
Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, generations of miners have worked at mining coal, a job that occupies Roy’s father, Luke. The family is a part of the Salvation Army with Roy and his sister being involved with playing the cornet and singing. It is a faith-based group but, importantly, involves a social outlet as well for people in the small communities at the heart of this novel.
The children, Sara and Roy, grow up in their communities, helping out with daily chores, forming their own ideas of what they want in the future. However, no spoilers here. Suffice it to say, they do face obstacles, typical for the times in Canada with the “goldanged” Depression being a considerable challenge.
Audrey Austin, successfully, integrates highlights of the early 20th century era along with the everyday aspects such as the Rawleigh Company that sold products to households in Canada and the United States; growing emergence of telephone and cars; even “yellowing scribblers”. Sara’s discovery of “scribblers” is an element with which many readers will identify. In these notebooks, Sara has shared her thoughts and dreams, an experience shared by many of us!
In a recent e-interview, Audrey Austin noted that “SARA enjoys a general audience from young adult to seniors, some of whom have memory of the Great Depression and its impact on Canadian families”. This book is a case in point for the writing of historical fiction. In this genre, one gets a glimpse of the past, from family life to economic hardships and job success in early 20th century Canada. Audrey Austin admits that the book contains “slivers of actual happenings” from life; however, the challenge of creativity in writing historical fiction is met with this new character, Sara, and her companions.
As with Anne of Green Gables, this young fictional character is a character who tells us much about our country’s past. For a peak at early 20th century Canada, check out Sara, a Canadian Saga.
For information on obtaining this book, check out the author page for Audrey Austin.