Tuesday 25 October 2011

Hoarfrost and Cherry Blossoms

Finished October 23
Hoarfrost and Cherry Blossoms by Susan Bainbridge
This novel is set in a small community in northern Canada called Everet in the 1970s. It revolves around a circle of friends who live in the community. The main characters are Brian, who works at the local fuel depot, and his girlfriend Mary, a school teacher. We also see other people in the community, the majority of whom have come from the south and don't stay in the Arctic their whole lives. These include the local RCMP officer, Jackson Pedley; the local priest, Father O'Reilly; the owners of the local hotel and restaurant, Bob and Sandra; and Brian's boss Jim.
The book is a collection of experiences taken over the course of about a year. They range from finding a local man frozen to death while on a cross-country ski expedition, to pranks at the expense of the nearest neighboring town, to harrowing airplane rides. At first the book seems light-hearted capturing the moments that highlight the lives of these people, but before the end we start seeing the underlying depression one of the characters fights against, and how even those close to them don't recognize it for the torment that it is.
This is a story of friends, people who care about others, and a close community that rallies together.


  1. I enjoyed this book so much that I recommended it to the book club I belong to. We gathered together and arranged to have a Skype interview with Susan. Sixteen women shared their feelings and asked questions about the characters, writing style, etc.

    I highly recommend this hilarious, poignant book with an ending I was not expecting!

  2. Coming from South Africa which is the other end of the world from Canada, it is great to know that the environment of this book is real to other Canadians. I have no concept of what it is like to live in a freezing environment but enjoyed the images that came to mind as I read Susan Bainbridge's book. I lived for a number of years in a small community and could identify with the characters and community spirit that Susan so aptly captures.

    A great book!

  3. I'm glad you both liked it Jenny and Elena. I thought it was a great snapshot of a northern community at a period in time. And yes, that ending was a bit of a surprise!

  4. I was sent a copy of Bainbridge’s novel Hoarfrost and Cherry Blossoms for my birthday. Honestly, Canadiana has never really appealed to me. However, Bainbridge captured my imagination. The community seemed so real to me, it was like being there with them through thick and thin. An excellent read!

  5. Yes, Breivik it really gave a sense of the small town and kind of felt like an ex-pat community too with everyone being from somewhere else.