Susanna's Quill

Susanna's Quill

by Julie Johnston
     
 

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Shortlisted for the 2005 Young Adult Canadian Book Award

Susanna's Quill is a work of historical fiction based on the life of Susanna Moodie, writer and pioneer, by award-winning author Julie Johnston. The story takes us into Susanna’s genteel English childhood, through her humorous teenage attempts at writing, growing to her burgeoning independence,

Overview

Shortlisted for the 2005 Young Adult Canadian Book Award

Susanna's Quill is a work of historical fiction based on the life of Susanna Moodie, writer and pioneer, by award-winning author Julie Johnston. The story takes us into Susanna’s genteel English childhood, through her humorous teenage attempts at writing, growing to her burgeoning independence, marriage to Dunbar Moodie, and their decision to emigrate from England. To the Moodies, Canada was the answer to their prayers. They would have the life they could no longer afford in Britain and they could raise their children to become wealthy landowners in their own right.

The adventures that thwart this dream become a story of lost illusions and a found sense of self-reliance and inner strength.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Susanna’s Quill:

“[Susanna’s Quill] brings to the subject what is best about Johnston’s writing — considerable thoughtfulness and proven ability to provide a rich, textured prose that invites readers deeper toward understanding.”
The Toronto Star

“Johnston weaves a myriad of delicious detail.… Johnston makes roughing it in the bush visceral and real…. The reader cannot help but become emotionally involved in this woman, a tribute to Johnston, who brings her to life on the page.”
The Globe and Mail

“Richly detailed.… Memorable characters and a well-paced narrative mark Johnston’s foray into historical fiction.” — The Horn Book Guide

Children's Literature
Susanna Moody (1803-1885) might be called the Canadian equivalent of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Born into an upper class English family, she wed a retired army officer and emigrated with him to the Backwoods of Upper Canada during the 1830s spurt of Post-Loyalist Settlement. As her husband seems to have been a loveable ne'er do well, Susanna soon found herself holding down the farm, raising the children, and attempting to pay their debts by her writing. Poetry had been her forte in London, but the stress of her new environment finally led her to write about the true grittiness of the pioneering experience—and these stories in Roughing It in the Bush (1852) made her reputation. Johnston retells Susanna's adolescence and period in the Backwoods in this fictional biography. The early years with five unmarried and irrevocably aging sisters feels a bit like a Jane Austen plot, but once Susanna is up against the wilderness she comes into her own. Most fascinating is her struggle to remain a civilized Englishwoman (afternoon tea on bone china until it's destroyed; attempts to keep a proper distance from "the servants," even though the servant shares the same one-room log cabin.) American readers cannot help but be intrigued by the differences between Moody's Northern attitudes and the equally riveting but more egalitarian immigrant experience just south of the border. 2004, Tundra Books, Ages 10 up.
—Kathleen Karr
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
Johnston's historical novel tells of a 19th-century English-Canadian writer. Johnston takes the reader from Moodie's youth in England through her marriage and migration to the Canadian frontier. Moodie was born in the early 1800s to a gentrified family plagued by an abundance of daughters, no male heirs, a high-strung mother, and financial woes. Her early life reads like a Jane Austen novel. Later, as she and her dashing but impoverished husband Captain Moodie strive to make their fortune in the backwoods of North America, her life calls to mind Laura Ingall Wilder's stories. At the same time, Moodie's drive to be a writer makes the reader think of Anne of Green Gables. Johnston uses the third-person perspective to tell the story. She breaks the distance between her reader and her subject by interspersing Moodie's writings, and hence, her own voice, at key points throughout the novel. The many ups and downs faced by Moodie and her family, and Johnston's sparse descriptions of both people and places, keep the story moving. Readers who have outgrown Wilder and Montgomery, as well as those who appreciate Austen, will enjoy Susanna's Quill. Age Range: Ages 15 to adult. REVIEWER: Debra Mitts-Smith (Vol. 42, No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-An acclaimed Canadian author veers from her solid contemporary novels with this fictionalized account of Susanna Strickland Moodie's life as a young girl in England and as an adult frontierswoman in Canada. In the 19th century, when writing was still a socially unacceptable venue for ladies, Susanna makes a name for herself as a poet. At age 28, she falls in love with the admirable but poverty-stricken John Moodie; they marry and move to Canada, lured by the promise of free land and the opportunity to make their fortunes. Reality, however, proves a difficult teacher: their only servant accidentally shoots a neighbor's cow instead of a deer; ague and scarlet fever threaten the family; John is frequently absent trying to make money for the family through (bad) investments. Haunted by debt, clinging to Victorian ideals of rank even while living in a log shanty, Susanna works through depression and trials to discover that she is still a determined poet and writer. While teens may admire the protagonist's ability to survive and pursue her dream of writing despite challenging circumstances, they will have difficulty identifying with her as she is distant and often peevish. This novel lacks the strong characterization and plot development that Johnson developed so compellingly in Hero of Lesser Causes (1993) and Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me (1994, both Little, Brown; o.p.).-Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780887768064
Publisher:
Tundra
Publication date:
08/14/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
4.69(w) x 7.29(h) x 0.86(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Julie Johnston received the Governor General’s Award for her first two books, Hero of Lesser Causes and Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me. Her third novel, The Only Outcast, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, as was her most recent book, In Spite of Killer Bees. In 2003, Julie Johnston was awarded the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature in recognition of the enormous contribution her body of work has made to children’s literature. Julie Johnston lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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