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The Stubborn Season by Lauren B. Davis

The Stubborn Season

by Lauren B. Davis

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416279,442 (4.16)16



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very good book about the depression. is there a sequel?
interesting portrayal of mental illness and enablement. ( )
  mahallett | Sep 30, 2015 |
"She pictured her mother's depression like a shadowy fog that slipped around the doorways and through the plaster cracks and along the pipes. She couldn't escape it, and it made everything too close, too blurry. Where did one person end and the other begin? (16)

This is the question that haunts Irene MacNeil, a young girl growing up in Toronto during the Great Depression. She lives with her mother, Margaret, who teeters precariously on the brink of depression, and with her father, a pharmacist who has found solace in alcohol. The turmoil in their home reflects the crumbling of the economic and social structures around them. Irene heartbreakingly describes Christmas as the only “ceasefire” in her household: a brief reprieve in which Margaret miraculously summons the energy to bake and decorate; and Douglas, albeit white-knuckled, manages to control his toxic intake for a couple of days. As Irene becomes a young woman, she is consumed by her mother’s increasingly erratic behaviour. In a world gone mad with poverty, unemployment, and bigotry, she will unexpectedly find comfort in a young man from a Jewish farming community in Saskatchewan, who is fighting his own battle for dignity and a place to belong.

A Stubborn Season, although not the first of her works I’ve read, was Davis' debut novel. Cast with vivid characters, each page is alive with sense of place and history: the claustrophobic darkness of a Victorian row home, a steamy summer afternoon in a Toronto city park, the fearful stench of a jail cell, the loneliness of a “box car cowboy” riding the rails. Impressive, and highly recommended! ( )
3 vote lit_chick | Jul 3, 2014 |
An eye-opening story of the depression years in Canada, especially Toronto and riding the rails. Explores the desperation, fear, anti-semitism and violence of the years leading up to impending WWII, while following the life of Irene, trapped in a suffocating relationship with her mentally ill, paranoid mother. Beautifully written, well-researched and so evocative of a time not so far away. Are we any more tolerant of the "other" today? I want a sequel to find out what happens to Irene. ( )
2 vote marybx | Mar 6, 2011 |
Our bookclub selected The Stubborn Season, and all of us loved this novel! Lauren B. Davis had my attention from the first few pages - wonderful plot with well developed characters. It is clear that the author did meticulous research, not only did the storyline hold together well, but I learned an awful lot that happened in the depression years in the US & Canada. Highly recommended!! ( )
3 vote janetwatson | Jun 24, 2009 |
Since I wrote this book, I'm obliged to say nice things about it to keep it from haunting me. However, it doesn't feel right to self-promote like that, so let me instead share a review from Donna Nurse Baily in the Toronto Star:

""A GLEAMING DEBUT . . . a terrific first novel. . . compelling social history. . . Davis superbly registers the sly skills young Irene develops in order to navigate her treacherous existence. . . Davis adopts a refreshingly old-fashioned approach: She begins at the beginning. When characters do glance back, it’s mostly to explain the very recent past. This allows the reader to get to know the characters as they get to know themselves. It produces an intimate illusion of a shared history, especially in the case of Irene and David, whom we watch mature into young adults. . . . Davis turn[s] a discerning lens upon Canadians of British stock. Unlike most Canadian novelists, she treats the very mainstream MacNeils as the product of a particular culture, and then she subtly compares that culture with others. . . . Davis bravely admits — then interrogates — the prevalent racist attitudes. . . This is a wonderful novel. . . every character is sincerely drawn; these sentences just gleam. THE STUBBORN SEASON is one of those rare novels I look forward to reading again."
- Donna Bailey Nurse

And this from The National Post:

"...well researched and crisply written...Davis's talent is unmistakable... she evokes with harrowing precision. ... Margaret is one of the most memorable characters I have encountered in contemporary Canadian fiction... inspiring...Davis's portrayal of Depression survivors shows the human spirit can be amazingly strong and resilient."
-The National Post, ( )
  Laurenbdavis | Apr 28, 2009 |
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They circle the rink once and then twice. She had her hand tucked up in his arm and she began to trust the feeling. Their breath formed small white clouds around their faces.
"I used to come skating with my mum and dad," She said, "when I was really little."
David took her hand and spun out in front so he was facing her. "Close your eyes," he said.
"Go on. Close 'em. Let me lead you. Trust me, I won't let you fall"
And so she did, she held his hands and he skated backwards and drew her around the ice. She tipped her head back and let the cold wind hit her face and the darkness invade her body completely. She felt as if she were flying like a night bird over the clouds. She felt the subtle shift from foot to foot, the roll and dance of this movement, the sturdy heaviness of his hands beneath her weight. He pulled her in a circle, and the noise of the other skaters faded into the background. She kept her eyes closed and it felt as though what was inside was bigger than what was outside, like a crust of something thin and silvery, crisp with cold, covered with a vast landscape of star-filled dark inside her. The only thing that connected her to the ground was the slim blade under her feet and the solid flesh at the point where she ended and David began.
David watched her face intently, felt her muscles relax under his touch. He let go of the breath he'd been holding when he saw the frown disappear from her forehead and the smile come to her lips. He smile himself then, and knew that he had taught her the wonder of letting go. For just a moment he gave her the gift of unburdened lightness. '
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