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A bird in the house by Margaret Laurence

A bird in the house (original 1963; edition 1989)

by Margaret Laurence

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416840,847 (4)37
One of Canada's most accomplished authors combines the best qualities of both the short story and the novel to create a lyrical evocation of the beauty, pain, and wonder of growing up. In eight interconnected, finely wrought stories, Margaret Laurence recreates the world of Vanessa MacLeod - a world of scrub-oak, willow, and chokecherry bushes; of family love and conflict; and of a girl's growing awareness of and passage into womanhood. The stories blend into one masterly and moving whole: poignant, compassionate, and profound in emotional impact. In this fourth book of the five-volume Manawaka series, Vanessa MacLeod takes her rightful place alongside the other unforgettable heroines of Manawaka: Hagar Shipley in The Stone Angel, Rachel Cameron in A Jest of God, Stacey MacAindra in The Fire-Dwellers, and Morag Gunn in The Diviners,… (more)
Title:A bird in the house
Authors:Margaret Laurence
Info:Toronto, ON : M&S, 1989.
Collections:Your library, To read

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A Bird in the House by Margaret Laurence (1963)



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English (6)  French (2)  All languages (8)
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Strong characters both female and male, with broadly different perspectives throughout. Particular attention of course is paid to the protagonist, young Vanessa, but although perhaps the female characters are the focus, Laurence is fair and generous to the male species as well. The language is also descriptive but not so much that there is a surfeit of verbiage. One feels the indolent breezes of summer and smells the dust, the loneliness of the spinster aunt, and the sorrow of the mother. A wonderful collection of connected stories (so that it's all but a novel). ( )
  Muzzorola | May 25, 2015 |
This is a small book of short stories. But, like The Stone Angel and A Jest of God, they all take place in the fictional town of Manawaka which is a thinly disguised Neepawa, MB where Laurence grew up. According to a Winnipeg Free Press article published at the time of her death in 1987 some people in Neepawa resented the way Laurence portrayed the town. This article says that only a few dozen people attended the memorial service in Neepawa "in sharp contrast to a standing-room-only tribute Friday in Toronto." I am indebted to the person who included a copy of this article in this book. I only found it as I finished the first story so it was a complete surprise to me.

Vanessa McLeod is the central character of the stories. Isabel Huggan, in the afterward to the book, confirms what I suspected i.e. that these stories are autobiographical. Thus, I know quite a bit more about Peggy Wemyss than I did before. Vanessa and Peggy both lost their fathers at a young age. They both tried writing stories from a young age, honing their craft. They both could hardly wait to get out of their small town. Obviously, though, while Peggy while waiting to escape she was also observing all the people, tucking away things that emerged almost 25 years later when this book was written.

It's hard to pick a favourite story because they were all great. I think that the one that affected me the most was probably "The Half-Husky". It's the story of a dog that Vanessa was given by the man who brought birch firewood for the family. Vanessa called him Nanuk in honour of his Husky lineage. Unfortunately Nanuk became the brunt of cruelty perpetrated by the newspaper boy. He became aggressive with anyone outside of the family and had to be euthanized. All these years later I can still feel the outrage Vanessa/Peggy felt. ( )
  gypsysmom | Apr 15, 2012 |
Ooh yes, this is a goodie! I've never been overly fond of short stories because I felt that I didn't get to know the characters well enough. This series of stories, however, features the same main characters throughout. The result is that we do get to really understand the context of the narrator's life and to know her well. (It's really very close to being a novel...perhaps it is!)
I bless the day Elizabeth Hay referred to Margaret Laurence and led to me reading Laurence's complete set of novels. ( )
  oldblack | Oct 31, 2011 |
I recommend this book: I really enjoyed this book. We studied it in school this year and at first I found it a bit slow but after a few pages I started to really get into it. It was easy to identify with the main character Vanessa and I really liked the way the rest of the characters were described, especially the grandfather. Here's a little example; "Well, Peter, you've brought the wood." It was his habit to begin conversations with a statement of the obvious, so that nothing except agreement was possible." I like this because it sums up the grandfather' character in two sentences, even though it's being developped throughout the entire novel. I can't really explain exactly why I enjoyed this book so much, I guess it's because of the subtle humor and the emotion involved. The sad parts are quite moving, and that's difficult to do without making the whole book depressing.
  iayork | Aug 9, 2009 |
Vanessa was interesting, each of the stories was moving, and the book as a whole was remarkable. Full review: http://www.canadianauthors.net/l/laurence_margaret/bird_in_the_house_a.php ( )
  ripleyy | Jun 30, 2008 |
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That house in Manawaka is the one which, more than any other, I carry with me.
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Republished title: I Remember, I Remember
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