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The Stone Carvers named ‘must read’ book of the year

CHEERS! from The Written Word Committee of the PEC Arts Council to Norma Currah who championed Jane Urquhart’s book The Stone Carvers, as the winner of the 2011 County Reads competition.
“Again, this year, the voting was close with only three votes separating the first and second titles,” notes Anne Preston.

The  books this year were: The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood), The Gold Diggers (by Charlotte Gray), The Girls (by Lori Lansens), Too Much Happiness (by Alice Munro), and The Stone Carvers (by Jane Urquhart).

The committee also CHEERS! its partners, Books & Co., The PEC Arts Council and the County of Prince Edward Public Library and Archives;  all the people who attended the events; enthusiastic readers in the County and the five presenters: Andrew McLuhan,  Bev Campbell, Lynne Donovan, Caroline
Granger, and Norma Currah.

The County Reads will return next year, Preston says, “with a twist.”

In related news, Preston reports the cupboards are bare for the committee’s County Kids Read project.
“The Written Word Committee of the PEC Arts Council has handed out over 800 free books in the last six months to the children and youth in Prince Edward County.

“Book Bins containing new or gently-used books (which we have collected and had donated from the community) have been placed at various locations throughout the County. When children/families visit one of these locations, they are encouraged to choose a free book to read, enjoy and to call their own.”

New or gently-used children’s books, and financial contributions may be dropped off at Canadian Tire June 13-18; all PEC Libraries, Picton United Church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Picton), The Salvation Army (Picton).

The Author’s Festival wrapped up with The County Reads event. Championing their choice for “must read” book of the year were (back) Andrew McLuhan, moderator David Sweet, Norma Currah, (front) Caroline Granger, Bev Campbell and Lynne Donovan. Cast your vote before June 12.

With Books & Company's David Sweet is the 'Bag of Books' draw winner Vivian Taylor.

Rainy, spring weather is a perfect excuse to get between the covers – of some of Canada’s finest books.
County Reads, a program hosted through the Prince Edward Arts Council, held its second annual “battle of the books” competition, Sunday when five personalities championed five different books, each extolling the merits of one of the titles. Norma Currah, Andrew McLuhan, Caroline Granger, Bev Campbell and Lynne Donovan championed their choices Sunday before a full house upstairs at Books & Company to gain public votes at the event and online before the June 12 deadline.
Books & Company’s David Sweet moderated five-minute presentations followed by dialogue. It is now up to the public to decide which title will be named  the “must-read” book of the year.
Ballot boxes are at Books & Company and the libraries. You may also vote online at www.peclibrary.org
“Last year the top three books were six votes apart,” said Anne Preston, one of the organizers, “So we encourage everyone to read and to vote.”
The public is invited to read the five books to better enjoy the competition. The five books are available at the County libraries and at Books & Company. There are also bookclub sets available through the library.

The five books are:
Too Much Happiness– Alice Munro – championed by Caroline Granger
The Year of the Flood– Margaret Atwood – championed by Andrew McLuhan
The Girls – Lori Lansens – championed by Lynne Donovan
The Stone Carvers – Jane Urquhart – championed by Norma Currah
The Gold Diggers – Charlotte Gray – championed by Bev Campbell

The Stone Carvers, Jane Urqhart
Jane Urquhart is one of Canada’s best-known novelists. In her latest work, the sweeping and ambitious The Stone Carvers, she mines the depths of obsession as a source of creativity and of destruction, and the redemptive nature of art. Like Rose Tremain’s Music and Silence, historical incident is the novel’s leaping-off point. Written in the cadences and colour of legend, this richly imagined tale moves from the 19th into the 20th century and from Germany to Canada and to France to achieve an intriguing and satisfying whole.

In the mid-19th century young Father Pater Archangel Gstir is sent to Shoneval, a tiny, bleak settlement in the wilds of Ontario by mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. Gstir becomes obsessed with the building of an immense stone church for his motley flock, all of whom he draws into his ambitious plans. Among them is a wood carver, Joseph Becker, whom he commissions to carve a crucifix and Virgin and Child and whose memories of these harsh but fulfilling years are cherished by his granddaughter, Klara. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Klara carries on the family’s traditions of carving and tailoring–as well as exploring the entrancements of new love. 20 years on, Klara lives still in Shoneval, now a spinster caught in the grip and illusion of memory, having lost Eamon O’Sullivan to the Great War. At Vimy in France, the Canadian architect Walter Allward, begins the construction of his vast monument to the thousands of soldiers who went missing in battle–and it is this that rekindles Klara’s urgency to pay homage to the past and define her own future.

Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro
Brilliantly paced, lit with sparks of danger and underlying menace, these are dazzling, provocative stories about Svengali men and the radical women who outmanoeuvre them, about destructive marriages and curdled friendships, about mothers and sons, about moments that change or haunt a life.

A wife and mother whose spirit has been crushed finds release from her extraordinary pain in the most unlikely of places. The young victim of a humiliating seduction (which involves reading Housman in the nude) finds an unusual way to get her own back and move on. An older woman, dying of cancer, weaves a poisonous story to save her life. Alice Munro takes on complex, even harrowing emotions and events and renders them into stories that surprise, amaze, and shed light on the unpredictable ways we accommodate to what happens in our lives.

The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.
The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life–has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.
Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers…
Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away…
By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

The Girls, Lori Lansens
This book captures the feeling of a small town and all its quirky characters from a very unique perspective–that of a pair of conjoined twin sisters by the names of Rose and Ruby Darlen.  In alternating chapters, Lansens narrates the story from the point of view of each sister, cleverly crafting separate identities for them. Writing their autobiography is budding author Rose’s idea, one that Ruby, the prettier though less linguistically inclined sister, just goes along with. Ruby, however, adds her own valuable insight to their tale. Interesting depiction of country life and Lansens’ interesting characters–none more so, of course, than the twins themselves.

The Gold Diggers, Charlotte Gray
No event in our history is more legendary than the Yukon Gold Rush of 1896. With the discovery of rich gold deposits in Bonanza Creek, 100,000 prospectors headed for the Yukon within a few months. People from all walks of life — Canadians, Americans, British, even Australians — landed in the newly created Dawson City in search of instant wealth. Hungry miners hoped for the one big strike; others, for prosperity in this instant boom town; some, for the adventure of a lifetime.
This is the story of the Gold Rush through the intimate lives of six extraordinary people: the saintly priest Father Judge; the feisty entrepreneur Belinda Mulrooney; the struggling writer Jack London; the imperious British journalist Flora Shaw; the legendary Sam Steele of the Mounties; and the prospector William Haskell. Brilliantly interweaving their stories, Gray creates a fascinating panorama of a frontier town where desperados, saloon keepers, gamblers, dance hall girls, churchmen and law-makers were thrown together in a volatile time. Beautifully illustrated with period photographs and documents of the Gold Rush, Gold Diggers is a colourful and entertaining journey into a world gone mad for wealth.

For more information about County Reads, contact anne.preston@gmail.com

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