Friday, March 24, 2023

Literary Sewing Circle: Book Talk!

We have jumped right into the Spring 2023 Literary Sewing Circle round! Today's the day for some beginning book talk! How are you doing with the book? Have you started it yet? Finished it? Do you have any reactions you'd like to share? 

Here are a few questions to ponder today and for the next while -- whether you have begun reading, or you've only read blurbs & author interviews so far and still have something to say, join in! Although there might be a few spoilers in the questions and discussion below so if you haven't got too far yet you might want to come back to this post.

I'll add some of my own thoughts and you can reply to them or add your own impressions. If you want to hear other takes on a part of the book that you are curious about, leave your own questions in the comments, too.

1. If you decided to pick up this book and read it for this round, why? Do you usually like slower paced literary fiction, or is this a new genre for you? 

I found this book a few years ago, as the author is a Canadian who is in the same bookish circles online that I'm in. She's known for her essays and poetry, and I really enjoy her writing style. Literary fiction is my usual kind of reading so this one was on my to-read list for a long time.

2. How are finding the style of the book? The story weaves back and forth between past and present with porous boundaries -- did you have any trouble with that technique, or was it enjoyable for you?

I like these kinds of flowing narratives, with memory and story and voices intermingled. Sometimes it takes a second look to see where you're at when the perspective changes, but I thought this style matched the dreamy atmosphere of this book very well. 

3. Anna's textiles that she is collecting for her exhibit lead to many stories and reflections on the past. Are there any textiles in your life that you think would do the same for you?

I always enjoy looking at Ukrainian embroideries and thinking about who made them. But I don't have any personal family heirlooms of this kind. I do have a small afghan my grandma crocheted for me when I was quite young, and always think of her when I use it. And I do love anything from the 40s or earlier, even if they don't have any personal connection, as somehow that age or older feels like it evokes something historical for me. 

4. Margaret is skilled in horse husbandry and is a part of the land she lives on. And when she discovers photography, she finds new elements of her connection to the Nicola Valley. What did you think of her experiences behind a camera? How do you feel her extra talents fit into her story?

I wasn't expecting Margaret's photography to have that extra element to it. It's like she's experiencing what Anna experiences when she handles the museum exhibits. And it brings up older experiences on the land in a visceral way. With the very nature-based, practical focus of the rest of the story, this was an unusual element but I thought it fit with the reflective feel of the whole narrative.

5. Is there a particular character that you found especially compelling? Any themes or symbols that really resonate with you?

Besides our two main characters, I really liked Grandmother Jackson, and also the way that everyone seemed connected/linked in the family. The themes of reflection, memory, almost nostalgia, and the sense of place were all things that I found powerful in this book. The structure of a museum exhibit and the physical items in it leading to stories of the past is something I will always fall for -- my university degree was in history & literature because I love the way that the past and language can work together to create something resonant. 

6. Were you familiar with the historical context of this book? Were there any parts of the story that you found surprising or illuminating?

I was vaguely familiar with the area but learned a LOT about the natural setting of this area through the story. And I enjoyed how historical events like Bill Miner the train robber or Emma Albani's performances were folded in. I wasn't really aware of the Indigenous history of this location and found that it was explored in a way that made me curious to find out more - what happened to the local population when the valley was settled, and things like that. 

7. Is there anything specific  in the book that has sparked an idea for a project yet? Are you mulling over any ideas?

There is a lot of evocative imagery in the story that is sparking some ideas for me. Like others who commented on the last inspiration post, I find the grasslands and the natural world to be such strong images here. I have some general ideas using place names or descriptions in the book but haven't decided on anything yet. The second inspiration post next week will look more at some of the imagery in the story and I might know by then! 


  1. I am so excited about this round! I love LSC. I am a little ways into the book right now. You had said there is a lot of evocative language in this book and that's for sure! There is so much to draw inspiration from in here!

    I don't usually like historical fiction, but this one is beautifully written and I am enjoying it quite a bit.

    I do like the porous boundaries between past and present. Maybe that's something that has turned me off from other novels in the past is the separation of the storylines. 🤔

    The textiles part of the story reminds me of how I inherited my great Grandma's fabric stash and still use it in my makes. I used some to make my Closet Core Ginger Jeans and everytime I wear them. I think of her and know she would be proud. She was a pretty skilled sewist and though we didn't sew together, she taught my mom and then my Mom taught me. 🥰

    1. That's so cool that you've used your grandmother's stash. Garments using materials across the ages really mean so much, don't they?

    2. 'Porous boundaries' is a great way to describe the narrative! I'm glad you're finding it a more engaging style for you. Lucky to have your grandmother's stash, too -- I have a few things but mainly notions.

  2. I was drawn to this because the setting reminded me of some of Alice Munro's settings, although different time periods. The narrative moving backward and forward through time also is evocative of her work, although applied differently here.

    Textiles of course were another draw for me - I became oddly emotional when we were cleaning out my grandmother's house after she died and I found a few packages of piping that she never got around to using. I had to use it of course - made some PJs that I have enjoyed for years.

    Overall, I find the book very atmospheric, and that's what I like more than the plot. While I like all the female characters I find myself identifying the most with Nicholas as he's from the United States, as I am, and he's learning to love the place and the people just as the reader does.

    I am definitely doing some project that evokes the feelings of grass or perennial herbs as an inspiration from the book. The grasses and lavender and hay were all such a part of the scenery. The question is, how do I translate that info a garment?

    1. Now that you mention it, I can see a bit of Munro here. I think I also feel the influence of Kishkan's work as a poet!

      Glad you are finding this an atmospheric read - I agree that the setting and characters are a stronger element than a fast moving plot in this story. Interesting that you see Nicholas as the most relatable character for you!

      All the scenery provides such imagery -- maybe a print, or just a nod to it in your colour choices? Good luck deciding!

    2. Thanks, Melanie - I finished my lavender top and posted it on Facebook but I am not confident I did it right - haven't used this kind of linking service before. Please let me know if you can't see it!

    3. You did! I can see it on the linkup page, and on FB when I sign in :) Lovely lavender!

  3. I feel I have said this each book club event here, but … this is definitely not a genre I would normally read. (And this is the beauty and intrigue of book clubs.) The slow pace of the story is not something I usually enjoy, and yet this was interesting the whole time and difficult to put down. Oddly, it is not the 'usual' sort of historical novel, maybe because it felt so real, and maybe because of the way it was written, flowing so easily from past to present. There were moments I had to read a paragraph twice to realise the transition had happened.

    I have many textiles/wools from both my mother and grandmother, too many to use in my lifetime, and yet I cannot part with them because of the memories. Interestingly, their goods take up a several large tubs. If my textile/wool collection was to be passed down today the recipients would need an entire room and a very large bookcase. We accumulate so much more now. I wonder if it is because in generations past it was so much from necessity, whereas now there are so many more reasons for making and so many opportunities to share ideas, try new patterns and acquire materials.

    The photography definitely gave another perspective to 'viewing' the landscape and certain events. Much of the story was seen throughout from the eyes of Margaret and Anna. But photography does make one stand back and look from another unique perspective. Photography is very powerful because we can take the time to notice more and reflect. There was a quote in Chapter 5 when Margaret was looking in a shop window at photographs … '.. She didn't know that photographs could do more than provide a picture, but this one seemed to speak a language whose vocabulary she could almost understand.'

    What did I find compelling? All of it. A beautiful book. Great choice Melanie!

    .... Sara

    1. Thanks for a really thoughtful response. I thought that this book was really notable for the writing style - the imagery and atmosphere were really strong. You can tell that Kishkan writes poetry and nature essays, too!

      Interesting observations about accumulation and stashes! Yes, I can't imagine someone having to deal with mine -- maybe a hint to streamline a bit... but it is definitely more of a fun hobby for us, not a necessity, so it's easy to gather up materials.

      The photography is such a good angle to think about. I like how you point out the way it gives another perspective to the story/landscape, and that quote resonates with the way visual arts can communicate clearly even if in a slightly different way than literary arts. So much to think about! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book even though it was outside your regular reading habits :)


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!