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Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by…

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912)

by Stephen Leacock

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6211224,188 (3.84)60
Affectionately combining both the idyllic and ironic,Sunshine Sketches of a Little Townis Stephen Leacock’s most beloved book. Set in fictional Mariposa, an Ontario town on the shore of Lake Wissanotti, these sketches present a remarkable range of characters: some irritating, some exasperating, some foolhardy, but all endearing. Painted with the skilful brushstrokes of a great comic artist, the delightful inhabitants of Mariposa represent the people of small towns everywhere. As fresh, funny, and insightful today as when it was first published in 1912,Sunshine Sketches of a Little Townis Stephen Leacock at his best – colourful, imaginative, and thoroughly entertaining.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is a look at life in a small Canadian town in the turn of the century (19th and 20th). It is told in a series of vignettes highlighting different members of the community. While Leacock is telling the reader the story of Mariposa, it could be any small town. I am sure the characters and situations would be familiar to those in small towns all over North America, and I believe that was Leacock's intention. He tells their stories with humor, often highlighting the character's weaknesses with affection. Leacock does a wonderful job of reminding readers why they left their own small towns, but also why they will always remember their time there fondly. ( )
  Cora-R | Jul 30, 2019 |
Too sweet and simple really, more like a children's book. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
This was pure unadulterated satirical fun. The title tells you what to expect. The collection of vignettes is full of small town characters that could be found anywhere in America, and apparently in Canada, at any time from the late 19th century right up to the present time. You might have to look harder for them these days, but I know they are still out there, seeing the world from their front porches and bar stools rather than through the lenses of the Big Guys in the City. Every ordinary little episode is laced with cleverness and affectionate humor. My favorite by far was the disastrous (but routine) sinking of the excursion steamer on Lake Wissanoti, with about half the town aboard. Picture the Mariposa Belle settling comfortably to the bottom of the six-foot deep lake, and its passengers handily snatching their would-be rescuers from unseaworthy rowboats and dinghies in "one of the smartest pieces of rescue work ever seen on the lake." You might think of Mark Twain, or Garrison Keillor, while reading this. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Feb 10, 2016 |
This is a beautiful hardcover collector's edition of this Canadian classic which has been profusely illustrated by the comic artist commonly known as Seth. Starting with a lovely gold foil dust jacket, moving on to pull-out flap page with a mosaic of inch+ square portraits of each character mentioned throughout the stories. Plentiful illustrations form the front and end pages and each story has several accompanying "decorations" with at least one being a two page spread. The presentation of the book and the thick quality paper make it a joy to read and keep on one's shelf.

As to the book itself, Leacock is lauded as humourist of his time and is the author of many collections. This is my first time reading *anything* by him! I did a bit of research on the book prior to reading it to see if it was considered a novel or collection of short stories; I found it referred to as "stories" over and over again so that is the approach I took to reading and reviewing it. I read one story a day and collected my thoughts. Overall, the writing is tremendous and I thoroughly enjoyed Leacock's voice which was very modern considering the time period he was writing from. He's able to tell a story from both points of view incredibly well and one would never be able to tell where he (or the narrator of these stories) stood personally on issues such politics and religion. Unfortunately, even though I loved the writing and style, the humour passed me by. I rarely found anything funny at all until about halfway through the book when the subject of politics came up and I did find Leacock's presentation of Canadian political parties to be hilariously relevant even unto today and loved how his wit unbiasedly made fun of all around rather than modern day's spiteful and hate-tinged political humour. I also found Leacock to be quite witty in his way of telling about the silliness of the romantic. I have other titles by this author and will look to reading more of his work.

The book opens with the original 1912 preface and ends with an afterword by the current illustrator, Seth.

1. The Hostelry of Mr. Smith - Used as an introductory chapter leading into the first "sketch". First we are introduced to the town of Mariposa, it's beauty, landscape, geography, setting, layout, architecture, and such at some length. Then the description works its way to the downtown core, "Main Street", if you will, with brief introductions to prominent citizens whom we'll most likely meet again in more detail later on, until finally the narrative settles in on describing Mr. Jos. Smith, proprietor of the town's hotel and local drinking establishment, in other words, the hub of Mariposa. Next is told the tale of how Mr. Smith came to loose his liquor license and subsequently worked to getting it back. Smith is a shrewd businessman, whose every move centres around business but while profit may be his ultimate goal nobody ever feels slighted by the rotund, jovial larger than life man. I like the writing style and from this story can tell that I am going to enjoy these stories, however, I didn't find it humorous. Light-hearted, flippant, easy going, yes, but at this point I'm not sure whether I'm going to take to Stephen Leacock as the great humourist he is known as in Canada. (3/5)

2. The Speculations of Jefforson Thorpe - In this story is told the capitalistic ventures of the barber. Well, all he seems to do is give shaves. Anyway, Mr. Smith from the last story is not present in this one but he is mentioned numerous times and we know this is were Smith gets his shave. Again I enjoy the writing style, language and atmosphere created but there wasn't much to this story. Jefferson Thorpe was a talker, a man who knew a bit of everything and could hold an audience spellbound with his knowledge, which he did everyday as he took a good half-hour to shave each customer. He was also into mining and held many certificates and papers, a drawerful, on various different mines up North. He'd take one out and tell the story of just why it wasn't making money yet and what the idiots needed to do to pull her through. Then one day, his silver mine strikes a load and Jefferson is a rich man. Then at this point he later turns to investing in land in Cuba, plantations, bananas etc. He becomes interested in helping the downtrodden and it winds up being a scam, but for some reason we don't feel bad and neither does Jefferson. It's back to work, shaving, as usual, which he never stopped doing, but now he needs to work late to pay back money a friend invested with him. Still not finding any humour here. An atmospheric story of a good person, whose life can be changed by money but whose character money cannot change. (4/5)

3. The Marine Excursions of the Knights of Pythias - OK, ok, I'm amused. You know these stories are really a whole lot about nothing but the make for peaceful reading and this certainly makes me think of my own home town. The first good portion of the story really just reflects on how multi-cultural the town is: it's March and everybody is wearing of the Green, St. Andrew's Day and everyone's wearing a thistle, St George's Day and by, gum, we're all glad to be Englishmen. Then along comes the 4th of July and we're decked out in red, white and blue! All little Canadian towns/villages have an ethnic background but the British Isles have a big dominance in southern Ontario and my hometown was like Mariposa My folks were British immigrants and everybody, and I do mean *every* body, we knew was England, Ireland (both), Scotland or Wales. And they really didn't care too much if you were Scottish or English or what they were all just glad you liked your ale warm and uncarbonated!! So this story put me in the mood as it moves into an actual event of the towns annual Excursion Day on the steamer Mariposa Belle, her hilarious sinking and and even funnier rescue and rescue of the rescuers, LOL. No main character's here, aside from the boat and the town, but Smith shows up once again and ends up doing a good deed. We've gotten to know the undertaker and Reverend Dean a bit by this point too. (5/5)

4. The Ministrations of the Rev. Mr. Drone - I better stop writing such long opinions on these stories. Right. Not funny. One slight chuckle at the end when they get a certain Mr. Dreery to lecture on English Humour. 'nough said. We've me Rev. Dean Drone before, he's become a regular character but here the story centres on him. Your usual ecclesiastical tale of the pleasant, smart, but somewhat not all there pastor. The Church of England is the reigning religion is Mariposa; a few other denominations have been mentioned since but the COE has the Church on the Hill and Rev. Dean is the town's number one pastor. A smart man, reads Greek in his spare time, but due to an inadequate teacher at the seminary is at a loss with mathematics, thus the church books are in disarray. Add onto this that the congregation finally fulfills its dream and builds a brand new Church Upon the Hill. That the new Temple, Ark of Refuge, lighthouse, and tabernacle is not paid for seems to have slipped everyone's mind and as the years go by the Dean's books, get worse, his preaching for pledges and donations become more dire and a growing number of members are finding Catholicism. LOL This one has an ending that leads into the next story when a lawyer gets a fundraising idea to pay off the debt. (4/5)

5. The Whirlwind Campaign in Mariposa - Much shorter than the previous ones. The town's influential and businessmen, etc. decide to organize a campaign to raise money for the church's debt and everybody becomes very excited and wrapped up in the organizing of it and the meetings that eventually it runs out of steam and ends because their is no one left to actually donate. A lot of new characters involved in this one (2/5)

6. The Beacon on the Hill - This story brings to a close the last stories which could be called a trilogy as they are connected by the church and occur one after the other. This one gave me a chuckle or two but at this point I know I'm not finding Leacock's writing humorous in the least. It is however decidedly readable, has a light-hearted air that makes one able to visualize the characters inhabiting the world he has created. I am very much enjoying his writing. This story brings about the fire of the church that has been so troubling of late and the downfall of the Rev. Dean. What is brought to the forefront is how important and terrifying is a fire in a small wooden town, how the inhabitants are not fighting for one building but for the entire town itself and once more Mr. Smith shows up for a paragraph or two wearing a new hat, this time as the volunteer chief of firemen. (4/5)

7. The Extraordinary Entanglement of Mr. Pupkin - A lead-in story whose only purpose is to set up the next story. We meet and learn the personalities of entirely new personages here. Judge Pepperleigh, Conservative, with bouts of extreme anger or simply a judiciary temperament. His late son, Neil Pepperleigh, perfect specimen of manhood, whom everyone but the Judge knew was a heavy drinker and perished in action during the Boer War, one Mr. Pupkin with all the typical traits of a young banker, who has a "craze" for matchstick poker and who once mistakenly took his respect for a certain Miss Lawson for love. Upon closing, the daughter of Judge Pepperleigh returns from boarding school and Pupkin falls "clean, plumb, straight, flat, absolutely in love with her." I got a giggle out of the Conservative/Liberal jokes which were just the same as those today, showing Canadian politics have not changed much since the time of Sir John A.. Again, another light-hearted small town story which leaves interest for the follow-up story of the possible couple introduced here. (4/5)

8. The Fore-Ordained Attachment of Zena Pepperleigh and Peter Pupkin - OK. so this one was delightful. The old-fashioned, witty narrative of the courtship of the judge's daughter and the bank clerk. Then when we find out the reason Peter knows it is absolutely hopeless and thinks he is not good enough for the fair Zena it is a riot. (5/5)

9. The Mariposa Bank Mystery - As we had the trilogy of stories about the Rev., this story concludes a trilogy of stories about the banker and the judge's daughter. Again, I heartily enjoyed this one and found it quite humorous. Our young banker, so forlorn in love, attempts or at least contemplates attempting suicide four times over his heartache. Finally, his last turn at ending his miserable life turns into his catching a bank robbery in progress, thus changing the course of his entire life. Never mentioned, but we the reader are in on an inside joke that makes this tale delightful. (5/5)

10. The Great Election in Missinaba County - This is the funniest story here and really doesn't even have a plot. There is about to be an election for a new representative for Missinaba County but before we get into that the author stops to just let us know what politics means to those in Mariposa. This is absolutely hilarious as he describes Canadian politics, those who are Liberals, those who are Conservatives, those who are both; how no one is allowed to *not* have politics, and the ones who say they don't because of their profession, for example the Rev. Dean of the C. of E. who at election time manages to clear his church of Liberals during sermons. This "sketch" had me giggling as it is so true of a Canadian small town and also so true of how the members of each political side behave too this very day, showing how little has changed in the Canadian political arena. The story ends with the current holder of the position, a Liberal, up for re-election coming to town and finding out who he will be up against in the running. (5/5)

11. The Candidacy of Mr. Smith - So Mr. Smith, from earlier in the book, is running for the Conservatives. This story was disappointingly dull. It ran around trying to be witty (I chuckled a couple of times) but spent more time on the process of elections than on any of the people involved. Ending up just dull, my mind wandered through the story. (2/5)

12. L'Envoi. The Train to Mariposa - A closing story in which the narrator addresses the reader, which he's done the entire length of this book. However, through the reminiscences of the narrator about the last train to Mariposa each night, how the city and suburbs can seem to magically turn back time to the wonder years of little town Mariposa we come full focus to our two subjects. The narrator and reader, two old men, sitting in the Mausoleum Club reminiscing of the "little Town in the Sunshine that once [they] knew." (3/5) ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | Apr 15, 2014 |
"I don't know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with a dozen towns just like it."

This book is widely regarded as a classic example of Canadian literature. Its reputation as a funny book is also well known, given that its author is the namesake of an award for humour writing. But does it live up to the hype? After all, it was published over 100 years ago; humour can change a lot in that length of time. Fortunately, wry humour is relatively timeless. Leacock relates the adventures (or non-adventures) of the denizens of Mariposa with a flair for the dramatic and tongue firmly lodged in cheek. It's based at least in part on Leacock's experiences in the town of Orillia, Ontario, which has since adopted the name of the Sunshine City in tribute. However, residents of small towns across Canada might recognize a few of the characters as living in their own towns.

This was a book where, at the end of a chapter, I would say "That has to be my favourite chapter." Then I would read the next chapter and say "No, that's my favourite chapter." And so on. Each story is self-contained, making it a very good book to read on the bus or as a bedside book, and each showcases a different character or set of characters. My favourite stories were the ones where a minor event was blown completely out of proportion by the townspeople, such as "The Mariposa Bank Mystery" and the classic "The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias", with honourable mention to "The Great Election in Missinaba County" for making me laugh lightheartedly about politics for a change (as opposed to cynically).

If you like books set in small towns, or the early days of Canada, then you should check out this book. The recent CBC adaptation, featuring Gordon Pinsent as the elder Stephen Leacock, is also well worth looking into. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Jan 17, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Leacockprimary authorall editionscalculated
SethIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevens, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I don't know whether you know Mariposa.
Even more effective, perhaps, were Mr. Smith's secret benefactions, the kind of giving done by stealth of which not a soul in town knew anything, often, for a week after it was done
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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