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She wrote during the '50's, & 60's & later writers like Margaret Atwood & Alice Munro credit her as an inspiration, as do many US women writers. She was a winner of the Governor General's Award in 1966 for A Jest of God& the Univ. of Chicago Press has re-issued 6 of her books.
My personal favorite is A bird in the House.
MarianV, Margaret Laurence is a favourite of mine too,although I haven't read any of her works for far too long a period of time now.
And for something a little off-beat, but quintessentially Canadian, I highly recommend The Dominion of Wyley McFadden by Scott Gardiner. A former medical doctor travelling across Canada bringing rats to Alberta (having heard on CBC Radio that Alberta has none) in his personal commitment to equalization -- a theme that cost him his medical license. How much more Canadian can you get?
In terms of Canadian French, Gabrielle Roy is unsurpassed - all of her novels and short stories are worth a read, and then there's Nancy Huston who writes beautifully in both French and English, my favourite being Cantique des plaines.
Of Timothy Findley's, I loved You Went Away. Finally, I recommend Jacques Godbout's L'Aquarium.
My conclusion is that there isn't any more a Great Canadian Novel than a Great American Novel - there's too much to choose from!
My first introduction to Robertson Davies was through the Rebel Angels, set in Toronto. He writes well and is one of my favorite authors.
My favourite Canadian author is Jane Urquhart. But, another author worth noting is Scott Gardiner who has written two books that ONLY a Canadian could write: The Dominion of Wyley McFadden and King John of Canada. Anyone interested in Can Lit needs to check these out.
I will have to pick it up sometime.
It certainly is one of the best examples of Canadian writing I've read.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Richler
Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Galloway
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Random Passage by Bernice Morgan btw, Morgan's newest, Cloud of Bone was marvelous
Barometer Rising - I haven't read this in years, but I remember being very impressed
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Can I count A Fine Balance?
I pick Random Passage as the best Canadian novel.
I have very fond memories of a literary lunch I attended for Margaret Atwood about four years ago. It was a very humorous lunch and she had a very receptive audience.
One of my favourites of Atwoods is Alias Grace.
He also did an excellent biography of the boxer Yvon Durelle, called THE FIGHTING FISHERMAN. The Establishment pretends he doesn't exist but he does! I'm just now reading his latest, THE GRUMPY MAN, and it's really good too.
Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
the Island Walkers by John Bemrose
and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston.
I also really loved the first half or so of Fugitive Pieces but not the story in the second part.
Oops - and of course Anne of Green Gables!
I haven't read many Canadian books that I haven't really enjoyed... in fact I'm struggling to think of any.
Perhaps not the Greatest Canadian Novel (if indeed you could identify such a thing), but at least as worthy as many of the more recent novels mentioned here.
For many, Annie Proulx's Shipping News is their big introduction to Nfld. It is set in the NW of the island, and I only lived on the opposite SE corner, so I was unable to fully identify with the community that Proulx brings to life.
I don't know that I have read a Maritimes novel. Perhaps, someone could recommend something? Although, there is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Evangeline set in Acadie.
I find his earlier work (thinking in particular of Blood Ties) all but unreadable: thick, indigestible, stream of consciousness flowing more like porridge than water. But his later books are much easier to take. I recently read The Friends of Meager Fortune, a historical novel about loggers in NB, and enjoyed it.
Another from the maritimes is Lynne Coady. Try Saints of Big Harbour, set in contemporary small-town New Brunswick. Coady is not as well known as D.A.R. but she deserves to be.
I haven't read it, but Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth Harvey earned critical raves last year, and is probably worth checking out. It's set in Newfoundland.
Windflower by Garbrielle Roy
The Book of Negroes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
The Handmaid's Tale
Also something by Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler, and likely The Two Solitudes.
Of course, something by Robertson Davies will also be a must.
Starting with my home province, Manitoba, I'm going to mention Where Nests the Water Hen by Gabrielle Roy which was picked during the Thin Air Festival as the Manitoba Reads book.
As others have said Robertson Davies was a genius and I loved the Cornish Trilogy by him: The Rebel Angels, What's Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus. I think they would be my Ontario pick although there are lots that would also work.
For Quebec I'm going to mention The Marriage Bed by Constance Beresford-Howe. It was the first book by this author that I read and it spoke to me as a feminist.
From Eastern Canada I think Barometer Rising is a classic.
From the Western prairies Jake and the Kid gives a glimpse of life as it used to be.
I was having a hard time thinking of a book from BC that I rated as high as the others I've mentioned. Then I remember Needles by William Deverell. It's not a conventional choice for great Canadian novel since it is from the crime/thriller genre but when it came out in 1979 very few Canadians were writing in that genre and it made a big impact. Interestingly, Deverell apparently regrets that he has become trapped in the crime genre because he swore to his father that he would write a "literary" book.
My favourite Canadian novel has to be Life of Pi by Yann Martel. However, my favourite piece of Canadian lit is a collection of short stories, not a novel: Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro.
I've read most of them, and would agree that they are all worth reading at some point.