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Deep Hollow Creek by Sheila Watson

Deep Hollow Creek

by Sheila Watson

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This book was published in 1992, although Watson actually wrote it in 1934 when she spent a year teaching in a remote part of the Cariboo region of British Columbia. In this short novel, Stella is a school teacher who arrives in Deep Hollow Creek full of book knowledge, but with a lot to learn from observing the lives of the residents of this small community. There are three glowing reviews of Deep Hollow Creek here on LT, so I expected to love it too. Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me. Although I did appreciate her sly sense of humour, overall I found the writing to be choppy. I have spent time in this area of the world, and that usually raises my enjoyment of a book, but it didn't help me in this case. ( )
  Nickelini | Jan 13, 2013 |
A Canadian Classic - A journey back in time to an exquisite "sense of place".

This Canadian Classic was/is an amazingly powerful and brilliantly written short novel, written in the 1930's and not published until 1992.

The story is straightforward and uncomplicated. A young woman moves into a remote, isolated settlement in British Columbia to begin her career by teaching a small handful of children born to the people living in the area. The experiences with the land and the people who live there invite and support major change in her life. The sense of place is breathed in and become part of her at a cellular level.

The impact of the natural world and it's beauty are the heart of the book, with the stories of the people living in the area branching out from the land itself like throbbing blood vessels which bring humanity to the former wilderness. The stark beauty of Winter and the almost un-endurable freezing cold, contrast with the beauty of Spring, Summer and the all too brief Fall seasons. Her contact with the First Nations people who are living now on a Reserve in the vicinity add to the richness and depth of her experience.

Word after word build an edifice of solitude and soliloquy, pierced by contact with the local families and the stories of their lives and what stories they tell of those who survive or those who abandon the hardships of life in what was still a virtual frontier in western Canada.

Ah, but it is the words, the writing itself, which makes this book shine and blossom within the chest and the brain.

I will seek out at least one of her other books, [The Double Hook].

I encourage you to give [Deep Hollow Creek] a try. It is an unusual journey and not a trip everyone will want to take, however, those that travel through the narrative will not regret the time spent there in the depths of beautiful British Columbia. ( )
3 vote womansheart | Jun 23, 2010 |
Deep Hollow Creek is the story of a young teacher's one year stay in a small village in British Colombia during the 1930s. Stella, a city girl, has chosen this adventure of slumming it in the wilds, and traveled to Deep Hollow Creek to find—first off—that two related families have been squabbling over who will have her as a boarder. And thus begins the year.

This is not a chronicle of Stella's teaching experiences, for we barely get to hear much about her one-room schoolhouse with its 10 or so pupils. What we do get is a wonderfully crafted tale of the land and its people during the tough economic times of the 1930s. As Stella gets to know both so do we.

The novella has a lyrical rhythm at times and Watson has a keen sense of language. I stopped more than once to read a passage out loud. Here's a sample:

"In the cleft of the valley the snow was falling on the roof for which old Adam Flower had freighted shingles from the coast. Over the mountain road which led from the Rock the snow was drifting in swirls and eddies, deepening in the hollows, crust forming on crust. The flakes fell and the cold tightened. Then the flakes stopped falling and the blue weight of a clear sky lay on the valley as the ice lay on the creek."

The dialog is written without quotation marks which creates a bit of distance, the feeling of looking at the story through a window, and lends a sort of wistfulness to the prose. Though largely autobiographical, written in the 1930s while Watson herself was a teacher staying in British Columbia, it was not published until 1992 and I cannot help but think that this wistfulness entered then. I can understand why this book is now considered a Canadian classic, the book captures brilliantly a time, a place and its people. [Deep Hollow Creek] is less a story of her becoming a part of this place than this place becoming a part of her. ( )
3 vote avaland | May 12, 2010 |
Yesterday I spent a few hours with Sheila Watson, reading Deep Hollow Creek. Watson is a little-known Canadian author who I was introduced to in a university course on Modern Canadian Literature. Her novel The Double Hook is one of my favourites, and the main text I studied for my Honours Thesis. Watson was not the most profuse of authors, and so these two books, plus a collection of five short stories, make up her entire bibliography. Most sources classify Deep Hollow Creek as a novel, but at just over 100 pages, I think it qualifies for novella status.

Though Deep Hollow Creek was published in 1992, Watson wrote it in the 1930s, following a stint as a teacher in northern British Columbia. She drew heavily on her own experiences; her protagonist, Stella, is teacher to a handful of children in Deep Hollow Creek, BC, a small settlement dominated by the Flowers family. Since Stella is the newcomer in a tight-knit community, she learns the history of her neighbours through the gossipy stories they tell about each other.

Watson's novella definitely falls into Oates' definition of the novella as "a rapturously extended prose poem driven by narrative..." - her writing is always more poetic than prosaic. Her sparse style echoes the wild, uncivilized landscape she describes, and the rather lonely lives of her characters. Stella is a literary woman thrust into a land far removed from the university scene, and it is here that she learns the power of language:

"If I hadn't come here, she said, I doubt whether I should ever have seen through the shroud of printers' ink, through to the embalmed essence. The word is a flame burning in a dark glass."

I love this image, this weight that Watson gives to words. Neither Deep Hollow Creek nor The Double Hook are long, page-wise, but that is because Watson puts so much power into every word. This is an incredible piece of writing. ( )
7 vote Cait86 | Mar 14, 2010 |
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Her eyes, Stella thought, were the colour of Spanish mahogany, but they lacked the lustre of organic fibre.
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