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Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler
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Sarah Canary (original 1991; edition 1995)

by Karen Joy Fowler

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5041720,201 (3.64)38
Member:Wookies
Title:Sarah Canary
Authors:Karen Joy Fowler
Info:Zebra (1995), Paperback
Collections:possible sell
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Work details

Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (1991)

  1. 00
    Wild Life by Molly Gloss (lquilter)
    lquilter: Gloss writes beautifully, as does Fowler. The settings are similar -- 19th century Pacific Northwest. The premise is also related; an almost realistic novel that slips into SF-ality.
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» See also 38 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I do not know what to make of this book. I suspected I wasn't going to enjoy it, since I haven't enjoyed other stuff by Karen Joy Fowler, but that's not exactly what happened. I did get caught up in the story, intrigued by the mystery of Sarah Canary. At the same time, I felt like it was one of a type of novel I don't get on very well with, something very opaque, where motivations aren't clear and things just happen to the characters as if they are just giving themselves over to whichever way life pushes them.

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that kind of story, it just doesn't really do anything for me. Well, I'm sure there are exceptions, but this wasn't one -- the best I can say is that I read it very quickly, I had no intention of stopping, and I did find it interesting. Partially because of the genre-twisty is-this-SF question about it, rather than because of it -- ambiguous stories don't bother me, but the combination of style and character here did.

On the other hand, I did like the portrayal of B.J. For all that he's clearly "not all there" in colloquial terms, he's good at heart and the way he sees the world makes for an interesting point of view. The passages from his point of view were maybe the best in the novel, for me. ( )
  shanaqui | Aug 11, 2014 |
I read this novel because I was so smitten by We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and the cover blurb was intriguing. It is winter of 1873 near Tacoma, and a woman suddenly appears in a railroad workers’ camp. She does not seem to understand Chinese or English, or to speak intelligibly. Chin Ah Kin is the first to see her, and when she doesn’t leave on her own despite numerous hints, he is appointed to escort her to... where? Perhaps she came from the insane asylum in Steilacoom? Turns out no, after they arrive circuitously and separately, but there she acquires a name, Sarah Canary, and they acquire a companion, inmate B. J. Escaping into the wilderness, the three encounter Harold, who kidnaps Sarah Canary to exhibit as the Alaskan Wild Woman, in which capacity she is recognized by suffragette lecturer Adelaide Dixon as a fugitive from justice, a woman accused of murdering her husband. A case of mistaken identity, but now Adelaide rescues Sarah Canary from exploitation, Chin and B.J. are still trying to find her, Harold is trying to get her back, and it remains completely unclear who she actually is. Inserted between chapters are real historical tidbits indicating that fiction is no weirder than fact; the times were strange. I was confused, but that’s intentional, a commentary on perception. I respected rather than enjoyed the story.

(read 27 Nov 2013)
  qebo | Dec 1, 2013 |
A very strange book. I enjoyed reading it well enough, but at the end, I felt a bit confused as to just where things were left at the end. ( )
  herebedragons | Jun 16, 2011 |
This is a strange, surreal little novel, which equal parts engaged and bored me. The boredom came from how unfocused and meandering it felt; I was not hooked by the narrative, for all its weird and wonderful twists. I did, however, like Fowler's subtle, wry, intelligent examinations of gender and women's history and human interactions. I was a little more uncertain about how she treated racial interactions, but I feel that topic needs someone more intelligent than I am (and certainly someone not currently running a fever) to dissect its nuances. ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 25, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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You only comprehend things which you perceive.  And as you persist in regarding your ideas of time and space as absolute, although they are only relative, and thence form a judgment on truths which are quite beyond your sphere, and which are imperceptible to your terrestrial organism and faculties, I should not do a true service, my friend, in giving you fuller details of my ultra-terrestrial observations. --Camille Flammarion, Lumen, 1973
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The years after the American Civil War were characterized by excess, ornamented by cults and corruptions.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452286476, Paperback)

When black cloaked Sarah Canary wanders into a railway camp in the Washington territories in 1873, Chin Ah Kin is ordered by his uncle to escort "the ugliest woman he could imagine" away. Far away. But Chin soon becomes the follower. In the first of many such instances, they are separated, both resurfacing some days later at an insane asylum. Chin has run afoul of the law and Sarah has been committed for observation. Their escape from the asylum in the company of another inmate sets into motion a series of adventures and misadventures that are at once hilarious, deeply moving, and downright terrifying.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:40 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When a hideous woman appears without warning in Washington Territory, Chin Ah Kin--certain that she is an immortal sent to enchant him--decides to return her to her white world, and their journey together becomes a magnet for a cast of eccentric characters.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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