This title is being marketed as Middle Grade/ YA, but adults might enjoy it, so I’m putting info here instead of in the “children’s” section.
The Discovery of Flight
April 20, 2018
Inanna Young Feminist Series
Finalist for the “Best Book” Awards at the American Book Fest!
The Discovery of Flight is a novel in two voices about the relationship between two sisters, the older of whom is disabled by cerebral palsy and only able to communicate with assistive technology (she can control her computer by moving her eyes). It interweaves the fantasy novel sixteen-year-old Libby is writing for Sophie’s thirteenth birthday, and Sophie’s diary, in which she discusses the deteriorating condition of her older sister. The book’s title is also the title of Libby’s novel, in which Libby takes the form of a hawk telepathically linked to a girl who, like her sister, is a good artist. Sophie’s diary is in fact illustrated with the occasional black-and-white drawing. The sicker Libby gets, the more she retreats into her novel and the less she interacts with the outside world. Though the situation is tragic, Sophie’s voice is extremely funny and wry. In addition, through her storytelling, Libby becomes a heroic figure rather than a helpless victim.
“A beautiful sibling duet. This uniquely structured novel is funny, frank, and utterly transporting.”
—Kyo Maclear, author of Birds, Art, Life
“The two voices–one sardonic, the other tender–blend seamlessly in this heartbreaking story that will appeal to fans of both realism and fantasy.”
—Kit Pearson, author of A Day of Signs and Wonders.
“Moving, imaginative, ultimately heroic and highly readable.”
—Robert Priest, author of the Spell Crossed trilogy and The Wolf is Back.
From the Reviews:
“The Discovery of Flight is about two sisters who write. Twelve-year-old Sophie is keeping a journal for her Hebrew class in preparation for her bat mitzvah, and 16-year-old Libby is penning a secret fantasy story for Sophie’s birthday. The novel is told in their alternating voices.
Sophie’s sections are accessible, funny, and direct as she writes about her day-to-day life. She doesn’t see the point of having a bat mitzvah and complains about learning her Torah chant and writing a speech. She makes friends with a boy and they work on a school project detailing how Christopher Columbus messed up big time. And she longs for a more conventional family life.
The tone of Libby’s passages is more muted; the reader gets to know her solely through the fantasy story she is writing. Libby has cerebral palsy-the only part of her body she can move is her eyes – and uses special computer software that responds when she blinks.
Sophie and Libby have always been close. In her journal, Sophie describes the scope of Libby’s life: bird-watching expeditions, reading books, watching movies. But Libby’s disease is progressing and she is becoming less and less responsive. Sophie expresses her pain and frustration about her sister’s condition with sharp insight and humour, illustrating her diary with funny drawings. Her narrative – warm, smart, and rebellious – provides the perfect counterpoint to Libby’s haunting, magical story.
Libby’s transcendent, courageous spirit it slowly revealed as her fantasy novel unfolds. After a medieval village is plundered by invaders, the inhabitants try to rebuild their community in another location. During this crisi, a young girl, named Terra, develops a telepathic link with a hawk and learns to see her world from a different perspective. Terra experiences danger, pain, and uncertainty about the future, relying on her inner resources and strength to survive. Meanwhile the hawk, Aya, leads a simple life of hunting and eating, not to mention the wild joy of flight. Being removed and distant from human concerns, Aya doesn’t understand why they make everything so complicated. The novel suggests that Aya represents Libby and Terra is Sophie.
The parallels between Libby’s fantasy novel and her life with her family are at the heart of this beautifully written book. The Discovery of Flight provides a compassionate perspective on a family living with a severely disabled child, but it also tells the funny, poignant story of a 12-year-old struggling with growing pains. Author Susan Glickman brings the voice of the two sisters together in a memorable and transformative ending.”
-Charis Cotter, Quill and Quire – June 2018 https://quillandquire.com/review/the-discovery-of-flight/
“Sophie’s older sister Libby has cerebral palsy and communicates through assistive technology that allows her to control her computer with her eyes. Libby is secretly writing a novel as a a surprise gift for Sophie’s 13th birthday but the main voice of this novel is Sophie’s, as she records events in a journal assigned as a Hebrew school project in preparation for her bat mitzvah. The novel begins with Sophie’s comments on her life and her admiration for her older sister as well as her sardonic take on the world in general.
The girls share an enjoyment of movies, an important one being Ladyhawke, the story of a cursed but beautiful young woman in Medieval times who is a hawk by day and woman by night. Libby extrapolates from this to create a girl and hawk who share a telepathic relationship. The chapters of Libby’s story are interspersed with Sophie’s continuing portrait of her life and her thoughts on just about everything.
This ingenious juxtaposition of a 12-year old’s reality and a handicapped 16-year-old’s fantasy develops the novel’s depth as it glides over day-to-day events and matters of life and death. Libby becomes less and less communicative as her story evolves and Sophie’s worry over this comes out as frustration. Sophie’s own life, however, is growing as it should and when Libby dies, Sophie expresses her gratitude for her sister’s gift by finishing the story Libby started.
The author has made Sophie’s final chapter of Libby’s story purposefully less wellwritten, yet it manages to convey adequately not only the relationship the two girls enjoyed but also a sense of peace and purpose to Libby’s short and truncated life.”
-Lesley Little, Resource Links – October 2018
“Part of the novel The Discovery of Flight is written as compulsory journal entries from Sophie, a grade seven girl, to her Hebrew teacher, Mr. Davis. The purpose of the assignment is for the students to recognize important issues and somehow integrate them with the Torah portions they receive for their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. Sophie’s topics range from family, to friends, to society, to self, and her voice is very compelling as a pre-teen critically examining her world.
Sophie often writes about her older sister, Libby, a teen with cerebral palsy. Libby communicates through eye movements, in earlier years by looking at picture cards and symbol sheets, and now using assistive technology in order to write on her own. Throughout the story, Libby’s physical health deteriorates, and she withdraws from Sophie in order to spend more and more time working on a secret project. After Libby’s death, Sophie learns that the project is a fantasy novel, dedicated to her … Susan Glickman has created a compelling voice for Sophie, and the mechanism of using a journal to share Sophie’s thoughts and feelings is engaging.”
–Bev Brenna, CM Magazine Volume XXIV, No. 29 – March 30, 2018 http://umanitoba.ca/cm/vol24/no29/
“What a moving book – I couldn’t put it down. The sisters’ contrasting voices work so well – one of them in the journal of Sophie, a wry and engaging twelve-year-old and the other her older sister Libby – ill with cerebral palsy, yet writing a poetic novel (The Discovery of Flight) as a gift for Sophie about a girl who communicates telepathically with a red-tailed hawk. The soaring bird seems to embody the spirit of Libby, so locked in herself, yet as deeply connected to her sister Sophie as her fictional creation is to the hawk. This is a young adult novel, yet older adults will enjoy it, too. Give a copy to a teenager – or a sibling – you love.”
Liz Ryerson believes that Hillcrest Village, her Toronto neighbourhood, is quaint and quiet, but stumbling over a corpse while walking her dog dissolves that illusion for good. When she realizes that she actually knew the dead man, a real estate broker who appraised the building she coowns with her philandering ex-husband, she becomes obsessed with solving the crime. The more instability is revealed in her life, the more she needs to find out who killed James Scott — and why.
Retired Classics professor Maxime Bertrand is delighted to play Watson to her Holmes. For Liz, the investigation is a way of asserting control in a world she no longer recognizes. It is also a means of proving to herself and her children she is not in retreat from life but can grow and change. For Maxime, it’s a way of becoming re-engaged in life after his wife’s death. Neither of them anticipates the possibility of real danger, despite police warning them to stop meddling in criminal matters.
In Safe as Houses, novelist Susan Glickman explores her own Toronto neighbourhood, imagining how a confrontation with murder might peel away its veneer of security and civility. She also shows, through her warm, witty, and wise depiction of everyday life, what is worth saving.
ISBN 9781770864368 | 5.125″ x 7.625″ | TP | $20
From the Reviews:
“It’s great to read a book set in Toronto and Susan Glickman, poet, editor, critic and creative writing professor, does it proud in this debut mystery set in the lovely hidden enclave of Wychwood Park. The story begins with bookstore owner Liz Ryerson walking her dog in the park. Dog smells something, goes to hunt, scratches up a body. Suddenly, we are in whodunit land, with a totally familiar setting which Glickman sketches like a master. Reading along, I was reminded often of the late great Eric Wright’s wonderful cop novels and Jack Batten’s PI stories, both located in Toronto neighbourhoods with people anyone might recognize as types. All that said, the mystery is a good one, with a nice puzzle and a deft, smart woman to sort out the clues. It’s short and fun and well-written and perfect for a rainy afternoon at home. Let’s hope Liz Ryerson returns soon.
–Margaret Cannon, The Globe & Mail, Saturday November 14, 2015
“Susan Glickman’s Safe As Houses(Cormorant, 256 pp., $20.00) almost fits into the “cozy” category of mysteries, but doesn’t surrender all its teeth in order to provide a soothing read. There are abundant comforts in these pages, though: main character Liz Ryerson is a Toronto bookstore owner who is wise enough to know that having a store dog will lure in customers, and Jasper the mutt features extensively in this book. He’s the one who finds the body that sets Liz on her investigative trail. She’s walking the dog in Toronto’s Hillcrest Village when she discovers the corpse of James Scott, a real-estate broker. It’s a killing that some of the frustrated homebuyers who come by her store aren’t too displeased about.
Liz, wanting to come to grips with something in her life, as she no longer has any hold over the activities of her ex-husband and kids, starts trailing the killer with her new friend, retired professor Max Bertrand. While the book’s a little heavy on backstory at the outset, it soon picks up momentum, and the intermittent chapters that give us a glimpse at the potential killer’s childhood and declining mental state are a good counterbalance to the generally light tone of Liz and Max’s investigative efforts.
I don’t have a cottage, but if I did, this would be an excellent book to read there.”
— Naben Ruthnum, The National Post, May 28, 2015.
“In her recent novel, Safe as Houses, Susan Glickman offers a convincing portrayal of a woman attempting to exert control over her world gone mad. Twists, turns and diversions in the story propel it forward at a satisfying pace. Liz is a likeable character and her relationship with Max is endearing but plausible. For book lovers, Liz’s store, Inside of a Dog, is a charming character unto itself. Still, the story has a dark side and it is in this underbelly, Safe as Houses, sets itself apart from your predictable, amateur sleuthing story.
Ms Glickman choses to unravel the underlying events in an unexpected and well-considered format: interspersed chapters are skillfully told from the point-of-view of the victim. In this way, Liz’s story and the victim’s unfold in tandem to a satisfying conclusion. Safe as Houses is a well-paced mystery having all the usual ‘suspects’ one expects in that genre. The twist is in the telling. And that, in my opinion, is what sets this book apart from other mysteries on my shelf.”
— Deoborah Serravalle, Writer, at https://deborahserravalle.wordpress.com/tag/susan-glickman/
“What is it about bookshops and murder? Glickman’s new novel is a cozy murder mystery about how lives are transformed after the discovery of a body in Toronto’s tony Wychwood Park neighbourhood.
But one of the most delicious parts of the book is the setting: a bookshop owned by Glickman’s protagonist, Liz Ryerson, near Bathurst and St. Clair in downtown Toronto. The shop is called “Outside of a Dog,” from the quote by Harpo Marx (“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend“) and also because there is indeed a dog (with whom Liz is out walking when she stumbles across the corpse). And the reader is able to vicariously experience the joy Liz takes in working in her shop. She spends time thoughtfully curating her collection and assembling themed tables, and reading the lists of books within the text was so much fun and an absolute bookish pleasure.”
–Kerry Clare, http://49thshelf.com/Blog/2015/10/01/Books-About-Bookshops
“This engaging page-turner kept me surprised and entertained during a flight delay – what better recommendation is there? Seriously, whether or not you’re a mystery fan, Safe As Houses is a great read anywhere. It has so many pleasing components — Liz, a bookish dog-walker turned sleuth when her hound sniffs out a dead body in one of Toronto’s most genteel parks; Sammy, her fractious teenaged kid who can’t cope with her boring mom; Maxime, an elegant French Classics professor and Roman-antiquity quote-dropper. And more. There’s a subplot; Liz’s marriage to Adam is over, and he lives upstairs with his girlfriend in the building that houses her bookstore. He wants out of his investment, provoking enough uncertainty in Liz’s life without a dead body showing up on her morning walk.
The parallel storytelling is very well done and builds suspense. At the outset, we’re introduced to an abused child, a box of matches, an act of arson. His story (noted by a matchbox icon) is interspersed with the numbered chapters of Liz’s narrative, as we gradually realize who the child is and why it matters. In the end, the mystery gets solved, but there’s no tidy ending; it feels both as satisfying and as shadowy as life often feels. In its gentle way, the story keeps reminding us that safety is never certain and life keeps surprising us, even on innocent dog-walks. You’ll enjoy this book.”
— Carole Giangrande on Goodreads
“This mystery novel is set in Toronto, and begins with Liz Ryerson discovering a body while she was out walking her dog, Jasper, in the nearby Wychwood Park. Liz owns a bookstore and has a library degree. She is divorced, but since her ex-husband and her jointly own the building both have their businesses in, he lives on the top floor in his photography studio and she lives on the middle floor with their children, above the bookstore.
When Liz discovers that she had met the victim before, it really hits home, and she starts to have problems sleeping and with her twins in the last year of high school, and her ex looking to sell his share of the house to move his life forward, she has a lot on her plate.
Just before getting to the park, Liz meets a new resident to the neighbourhood while waiting on the corner for the light to change, and when he comes to visit her bookstore, the two begin a friendship. He is a retired classics professor and with their common researching skills, the two decide to research the murder to help put Liz’s mind at rest on that subject at least.
With interesting characters, and local landmarks, this mystery captured my interest and told a good story.”
“Recently I’ve traveled to Iceland, Victorian England, the no-too-distant-future New York City and a small town in Virginia – all without leaving my house. That’s part of the adventure of reading. But sometimes it’s a treat to stay closer to home so I like to pick up a book that takes place in a familiar city and neighborhood. Such was the case with “Safe as Houses”, set in the Hillcrest Village area of Toronto. Hillcrest Village is a well-established neighborhood of larger homes, high real estate values and few “For Sale” signs. The streets are quiet, tree lined and the area overlooks the Davenport Escarpment. It has it’s own little “downtown” with storefront shops and outside seating areas (weather permitting – not always a given in Southern Ontario) for coffee and snacks. It is a neighborhood that can boast of old Toronto style and new Toronto fun.
Ms. Glickman stays true to the personality of the neighborhood in this book and uses the setting very well as the backdrop to her mystery.”
Here’s a cool interview CBC Books did with me about the book:
Susan Glickman: How I Wrote Safe as Houses
In most mystery novels, the person who finds the body falls off the radar as soon as the police arrive. But not in Susan Glickman’s Safe as Houses. For her first mystery, Glickman wanted to explore how it would feel for someone to find a dead body in the place they go for their daily dose of tranquility.
Susan Glickman explains how she wrote Safe as Houses, from the inspiration of her dog Toby to finding her setting, literally, in her own backyard.
“The idea for Safe as Houses came from walking my dog around my neighbourhood. He took off on me in this beautiful enclave in Toronto called Wychwood Park, which has a private tennis court and a beautiful duck pond and is surrounded by elegant Arts and Crafts houses. For some bizarre reason, I thought of my dog finding a dead body in the bushes. This wasn’t prompted by any evil associations with the neighbourhood. It just has to do with my own sense of impending doom and having read too many murder mysteries.”
“Wychwood Park is a beautiful neighbourhood. You can’t imagine anything more bucolic. There are giant oak trees and naturalized lawns full of bluebells and daffodils. It looks like a little piece of England. The phrase ‘safe as houses’ came into my mind. It’s an old English expression. I thought it had to do with one’s feeling of safety when in a solid structure like a house, but actually it has to do with real estate being the least volatile of investments. When I investigated this saying I decided the dead man had to be a real estate agent.”
“Maxime Bertrand is Liz Ryerson’s sidekick. He is a retired classics professor, originally from Montreal, who is lovingly based on an old friend of mine who I miss very much. He was a retired English professor and my doctoral dissertation supervisor. People who knew Sheldon Zitner might recognize him a bit in Maxime — although Maxime is much less acerbic than my friend, who was a New Yorker and had a very wry sense of humour. It’s not so much him as a character, but it’s the relationship that Maxime has with Liz. They have an almost father/daughter relationship.”
For the love of Toby
“One of the things that happens when you write fiction is you get to fill in missing pieces of your own life. I love my neighbourhood, but we don’t have a bookstore. So I made my protagonist, Liz Ryerson, own the store that I wish existed in my neighbourhood. I also made her dog a cross between a border collie and a lab — other than that, he has all the qualities of my own little dog Toby, who’s small and can’t fetch a Frisbee. So I decided if I was going to give myself a bookstore I was also going to give my dog the body he wanted so he could catch a Frisbee.”
Susan Glickman’s comments have been edited and condensed.
Also, here’s a link to click on for an article about the book:
previous novels for adults:
The year is 1738. Jacques Lafargue, a wide-eyed young Frenchman, arrives in New France aboard the Saint Michel. But before his Canadian adventure has a chance to begin, he is detained at Quebec harbour by suspicious port officials.
Their distrust proves warranted: instead of a young man named Jacques Lafargue their captive turns out to be a young woman named Esther Brandeau, and instead of answers to their questions about who she is and where she came from, they are given tales of castaways raised by apes, of blind lovelorn sailors and merciless pirates, of runaway slaves and kindly desert nomads, and of other curiosities in a limitless world.
Few suspect the truth: Esther is a Jew, which by law prohibits her from entering New France, and she is using her tale-telling to escape the restrictions placed upon her race and gender. And no one – not even Esther herself – realizes the power her stories have to open their hearts and minds to old dreams and new possibilities.
The Tale-Teller is a marvel. Susan Glickman take readers on a journey of discovery – starting with the fascinating true story of an obscure historical figure, and continuing through an intimate and richly-detailed portrait of Canadian colonial society, guided always by a map of wonders – to reveal timeless truths.
For a wonderful reading of the first chapter, go to Carole Giangrade’s podcast at:
and for an interview about the book, see:
From the Reviews:
“The unpredictable force of the stranger and the ethical challenge of hospitality are also central to Susan Glickman’s The Tale-Teller, which begins with the arrival of the mysterious Esther in the carefully regulated colony of New France in 1738. Esther has disguised herself as a boy, and while this deception is uncovered instantly, her further deception—that she is also Jewish—remains a secret throughout much of the novel, a secret she protects by spinning a complex Scheherazade-like past for herself involving shipwrecks and pirates and harem-escapes. The narrative is split between the realist historical narrative of Esther Brandeau, based on archival documents researched by the academically-trained Glickman, and Esther’s fantastical first-person stories, told in an engagingly intimate tone with a non-linearity and geographical range that contrasts markedly with the protagonist’s own cramped existence.
Esther’s stories are a carefully devised tactic, wielded in the face of her total lack of agency as a woman and a racialized minority. In both style and content they revel in mobility and subversion: she is raised by apes, refusing the strict division between the animal and the human; her adopted father, a sailor named Joaquin, falls in love with a slave woman when he is temporarily blinded, a metaphorical forgetting of race as a learned category. It is not surprising that Esther’s fantasy world is more appealing than the one she actually resides in, in which petty French officials use her as a pawn in their struggles for power and keep her captive throughout the long Quebec winter. Glickman’s imagination shines in these passages, unmoored from the documents that root the historical half of her novel. Appropriately enough, the restrictions of historical fact are felt at the level of narrative much as Esther feels the ties of her own oppressive social world; both language and subjects are freed by the unbounded imagination.
As the narrative proceeds, however, even Esther’s subversive imagination encounters its limits. The kindly Hocquart in whose home she is equal parts captive and guest, is originally enchanted by her stories and her fine recipe for chocolate, both exotic temptations in their own right. Eventually, however, her stories demand too much of him: “Far worse than the seduction of the stories themselves was how they challenged his convictions. If he accepted what Esther said as true, his beliefs about the world would be put in doubt. In her version of reality slaves deserved freedom, infidels were as good as Christians, and women became the equals of men.” Esther’s stories similarly fail to have the desired impact on the Ursuline nuns with whom she is lodged once her true identity, as the daughter of a Jewish merchant, is discovered. And when she attempts to use her tales to distract the inmates of the lunatic ward where she is made to work, she discovers that the destabilization of reality that comforts her only agitates those who already struggle to distinguish reality from fantasy.
The Tale-Teller is a novel both fascinated with the power of stories and aware of their limitations. As the period of Esther’s life illuminated by archival documents comes to an end, the historical woman and the fictional character slip beyond the reader’s view, the story’s control, and New France’s borders. The debris left by the stranger, in this case, is an awareness of Canada’s colonial history as a story not only of violent invasion but also of a failure to enact the ethics and politics of hospitality.”
–Hannah McGregor, Canadian Literature 220 (Spring 2014)
“As its title suggests, Susan Glickman’s The Tale-Teller … has a point to make about storytelling. However, in Glickman’s novel stories are not meant to preserve but to obscure, deflect, and disguise. Like many of the novels published in 2012, The Tale-Teller has its origins in history: Esther Brandeau, disguised as a boy, arrived in New France in 1768; when her true gender was discovered, she was held in custody for a year before being deported. Glickman imagines this boundary-crossing figure spending her year as a Scheherazade, eluding difficult questions by responding with stories that meet the real needs of her interrogators. (We recognize in Esther’s stories the traveller’s tales that were popular in the eighteenth century.) An engaging novel about the first Jew to arrive in Canada, The Tale-Teller creates a detailed portrait of the colony of New France as background for this fascinating character.”
–Russell Brown and Donna Bennett, The University of Toronto Quarterly, 83, Number 2 (Spring 2014), 300.
“Reminscent of the apochryphal Esther, who disguised herself as a non-Jew to marry King Ahasueras of Persia, fictional Esther Brandeau says, “I did not run away from my faith. I ran away from the limitations that faith subjected me to.” The numerous stories, imaginatively invented to fit each situation in which she finds herself, bring to mind the Talmudic tradition of midrash, tapping into legends and weaving nobler alternatives. In Esther’s quest, she discovers that although she may be the first young woman who came to New France disguised as a boy, she is certainly not the first of New France’s anusim.
Glickman is also an established poet, and earlier this year she released her sixth book of poetry, The Smooth Yarrow. Like Margaret Atwood, Glickman’s intelligence and superior narrative abilities have enabled her to transition skilfully from one genre to the other, and she is at the top of her game in both.”
— Sharon Abron Drache, The National Post, October 19, 2012
“Susan Glickman weaves history, fantasy, and adventure into her second novel, inspired by the true story of Esther Brandeau, a Jewish girl born in France in the early 18th century who disguised herself as a boy in order to flee to the New World. Esther arrives in the colony of New France in the guise of Jacques Lafargue, but when officials discover she is a woman, she is confined to Intendant Hocquart’s home while her identity is investigated and a decision made about her fate.
Like Scheherazade, Esther is a gifted storyteller, and during her year in captivity, her tales entrance those around her – first the servants in Hocquart’s household, and later the Quebec aristocracy. Esther’s stories span generations, cultures, and continents, crossing lines of gender, race, and socio-economic status. Her portrayals of subjects such as interracial marriage and cross-dressing seem scandalously radical to the conservative Christian inhabitants of New France. As her listeners begin to fall in love with the stories – which offer hope, adventure, and escape – they begin also to fall in love with the teller.
Somewhere along the way, the reader becomes enraptured with the mystery surrounding this girl and the stories she tells.”
— Katie Gowrie, Quill and Quire, November 2012
“In her fictional work The Tale-Teller (Cormorant Books), Glickman highlights Esther’s crafty ability to tell fascinating and beguiling stories about herself and her adventures that keep her listeners spellbound. Many of the details she gleans from books (such as Robinson Crusoe) in the library of her host, Intendant Hocquart, in whose home she becomes a temporary servant while her case is being decided. During that interval she acts as a Jewish Scheherazade, spinning charming, almost spellbinding tales in order to win a reprieve from deportation.
Wishing to become an indispensible member of the household, Esther tries to seduce her hosts with her culinary skills. Having brought a bag of cocoa beans with her from New France, she cooks them, pounds them into a mortar, adds almonds, hazelnut, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and an egg, and pours the whipped concoction into a cup for Monsieur Hocquart.
“He was delighted, proclaiming that Esther’s chocolate was the finest he had ever tasted; better than the beverage served in the finest homes in France; better than that Beauharnois drank every morning for breakfast to give him stamina for his amorous and military conquests. Hocquart had often drunk chocolate at other people’s houses but no one in his staff knew how to prepare it properly. Esther having revealed this talent, he would be happy to drink chocolate morning, noon and night.”
The Tale-Teller is likewise an appealing confection, a colourful historical adventure-fantasy and a skilful imagining of the inhabitants of New France in its early period before 1759.”
– Bill Gladstone, Canadian Jewish News, February 21, 2013
“It’s in the details of daily life in New France, juxtaposed with the Arabian Nights impulse in Esther’s talk, that creates such a fine tension in this book. She opens the horizons of the world with her stories, tempting some of the more staid residents to imagine other possibilities for themselves. And when her judgment comes, she accepts it and moves forward, letting the past few months drop away. She creates her own past and in doing so, creates her own present. Esther is a slippery character; the reader is never quite sure their grasp on her is firm. She is fascinating, and doubly so once you read the historical document included in the afterword which mentions this strange arrival.
This story is told in language that feels suited to the period, simple and yet different enough in style to suggest a different time. Each chapter opens with a Ladino proverb, which also adds something to the theme of each section. The mix of historical and fantastical works very well, and made this a very enjoyable read.”
— The Indextrious Reader: Notes & Quotes from a Literary Librarian, http://indextrious.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-tale-teller.html
“Based on a real figure, The Tale-Teller is a detailed look at Canadian society in 1738 and a commentary on the strength and versatility of a young woman who chose to combat the social limitations of her gender and religion with shrewdness and imagination.
Not only does author Susan Glickman illuminate the beauty of New France in the 18th century, but she takes us all over the world through the delightful musing of a female hero you cannot help but love. My only complaint would be that I wanted it to last longer. At just over 200 pages, The Tale-Teller is a rather quick read, which leaves some details skimmed over in favour of others and I’m a greedy reader when it comes to historical fiction. Published by Cormorant Books (a fabulous Canadian publisher) in 2012, The Tale-Teller is a rich, poetic read for the historical-fiction lover.”
— Alessandra Ferreri, http://www.traveltowellness.com/book-review-the-tale-teller#.UV7QgsrKQS5
“Susan Glickman, in her novel The Tale- Teller, offers us a glimpse of Esther in a snapshot of the months following her discovery in New France. We are led through beautifully crafted pages of the gruelling interrogations, the religious and cultural pressures, but the unrelenting nature of this enigmatic woman who would not surrender the essential components of her identity because of the fear of deportation and alienation provides a characterization of Brandeau of depth and honour. Susan gives Esther the most critical characteristic of survival in the face of adversity- storytelling. When interrogated, Esther relates magnificent stories of an outlandish experience that inspires her listeners that they can also believe of a world unfettered by limitations. Slowly, Esther inspires those who are also suppressed within her vicinities to take stands for their own existences. Finally, a narrative that breathes air into Esther’s lungs and gives her a vocabulary as rich and inspiring as the memory of the historical figure herself.”
— Sara Hailstone, http://sara-hailstone.blogspot.ca/2013/07/booktalk-susan-glickmans-tale-teller.html
“This book makes you work for the truth, which is in some ways simply as Esther puts it: “I did not run away from my faith. I ran away from the limitations that faith subjected me to.”
“Glickman blends Brandeau’s story with colorful fiction into a rather fascinating tale of early Canadian life and seafaring adventures in the days of European colonization.“
– Steve Spriensma, The Bay Observer, March 4, 2013
“The Tale-Teller is a precious novel, a piece of literary perfection that is almost too good to be true. How … such novels can be overlooked by three juries is part of a puzzle that I will never figure out.”
– -Andrew Armitage, Owen Sound Sun-Times, Autumn 2012
“Based on a historical character, Glickman’s Esther Brandeau is a master storyteller, mesmerizing her audiences with sounds, tastes and visions of the countries and adventures she relates. Her stories, always relevant to her specific predicament of the moment, are a pleasurable injection to the rather grim painting of the colony and itsinhabitants and governors. A strong sense of place is established by Glickman’s poetic writing … Recommended for young adult readers who are seeking historical fiction and a good yarn.”
– – Gail de Vos, http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30062208/moruzi-contemporarycanadian-2012.pdf
“I’ve read it with great pleasure … the storytelling as salty and exhilirating as the seas over which Esther sails … The sense of what New France might have been like is so convincing … I love Esther because she never tries to pull at one’s heartstrings, and yet she does.”
— Helen Dunmore, winner of the Orange Prize for A Spell of Winter
This book also appeared in French translation by Christian Duchesne as Les aventures étranges et surprenantes d’Esther Brandeau: Roman (Montreal: Boréal, 2014).
“Sur la couverture, un bateau à voiles, flottant non pas sur la mer, mais au-dessus d’une mer d’ombres ou de nuages sombres. Le navire est retenu par des amarres tendues à l’extrême, prêtes à céder. Vers quelles contrées ce récit nous emmènera-t-il? Celles de l’imaginaire et de la liberté, Québec en Nouvelle-France n’est que le port d’attache où l’on revient inéluctablement et à contrecoeur.
Esther Brandeau, moussaillon, déguisée en garçon, est l’héroïne de ses propres histoires, aventures étranges et surprenantes, comme l’indique le titre. Le lecteur, comme les gens de Québec, se laisse prendre par les récits incroyables de la jeune femme. Elle raconte, par petits bouts, une vie trop extraordinaire pour être vraie, telle Shéhérazade en Amérique, dans l’espoir d’éviter non pas la mort, mais la déportation, le retour sur le vieux continent.
Tour à tour, elle est élevée parmi les singes, naufragée sur une île déserte, prisonnière de pirates. Mais quelle est la véritable histoire d’Esther Brandeau? Cette jeune femme au tempérament frondeur a bel et bien existé, un événement historique avec peu d’incidence, rien de plus qu’un fait divers qui a occupé les langues de l’époque, mais qui aujourd’hui constitue un délicieux petit roman, une ribambelle de contes fabuleux auxquels on veut croire plus qu’à la vérité.
Au final, lorsque tout est dévoilé, la décevante réalité nous pousse à imaginer que l’aventure continue.
— Ariane Hivert http://www.lesmeconnus.net/les-aventures-etranges-et-surprenantes-desther-brandeau-moussaillon-tout-est-dans-le-titre/#sthash.GzaFYS4N.dpuf
Here are some of the wonderful reviews in French.
and don’t forget
The Violin Lover, Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2006.
Winner of the 2006 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction.
Click here to read an extract
To buy the book, click The Violin Lover
From the Reviews:
“Like Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Don Coles, Anne Michaels, Michael Redhill and a host of other Canadian writers, Susan Glickman has taken a turn from verse to fiction. An accomplished poet and non-fiction author, she manages the transition to her first novel, The Violin Lover, with assurance … As a first novel, The Violin Lover neither misses a beat nor strikes a false note.”
–Michael Greenstein, The National Post, March 26 2006
“Poet Susan Glickman uses music as both metaphor and plot device in her first novel, a moving, sparely written story of family, passionate love and strife set in London of the mid-1930s … like the final note at the end of a fugue, it resonates long after it’s done.”
–Lisa Fitterman, The Gazette (Montreal) July 8, 2006
In …The Violin Lover, Canadian poet Susan Glickman trains her clear eye upon the nature of, and conflicts between, art, domesticity and identity … Glickman’s mastery and maturity are evident in The Violin Lover. Its final moments are as moving and inevitable as the flow of music toward its conclusion. Readers will be richly rewarded by the beauty and power of her artistry.”
–Dvoira Yanakovsy, The Globe and Mail, April 1, 2006
“Glickman is an elegant, vivid and imaginative writer. She is able to convincingly portray intelligent people talking about things that matter to them, even when their behaviour is not so intelligent. Her depictions of relationships between mothers and sons are especially resonant. Best of all, she gets the music right, both in the technical details and the way it infuses the spiritual lives of her characters.”
— Pamela Margles, Whole Note (July 1-September 7, 2006), 49
“Poet Susan Glickman fashions this engaging tale around the true story of a black sheep great- great- uncle … Not only does Glickman meet the challenge of making this not entirely likable man come to complex life, her language expertly mirrors the rhythms of life and music. … Glickman’s backdrop shows us the texture of Jewish life in London: the music, the politics, the growing Blackshirt menace, the realities of children and home. These endure after the love affair has faded to silence.”
–Nancy Wigston, Books in Canada (summer 2006), 37
“Unfolding over a period of three years, while Hitler drives the world ever closer to war, The Violin Lover is impacted by the atmosphere, never overpowering but definitely underlining the actions of the characters. It resonates in the background, the tension of this gathering storm adding much to the tale. Interestingly, it’s a story that ultimately reflects Ned’s feelings about that perfect musical performance. When you read a good book, don’t you also want to close that cover and be silent? To think about and savor it for a time, not even tempted to read another until the possibility of literary perfection again rears its head? Clever Glickman.”
–Cherie Thiessen, “Disparate Chords,” January Magazine, Sept 6, 2006, http://www.janmag.com/
“Pure magic describes this debut novel by poet and literary critic Susan Glickman. I savoured every page, wanting to prolong my journey to 1930s London before the Second World War. Weaving the metaphors of music with her highly polished poetic prose, Glickman places the reader in a totally believable fictional space.”
— Sharon Abron Drache, “Lyrical Love Story Set in London,” Glebe Report (Ottawa) October 13, 2006, 39.
“Lyrical, original thoughts and visionary descriptions of instruments, the ‘secret honey’ of sounds and the power of music, lift the novel into a different dimension: these poetic insights raise the workings of the plot to unexpected heights of mysterious beauty.”
— Marge Clouts, “Music into Words,” Jewish Renaissance (U.K.) 6:2 January 2007, 42.
“Susan Glickman is primarily a poet and a literary critic. However, in this novel she has revealed the keen eye of a painter, the discriminating ear of a musician and that most precious of talents: the ability to write prose like a poet. In Ned’s own words, ‘music is what you hear when you really listen.’ The Violin Lover will pluck your heartstrings. “
— Maya Khankhoje, Herizons, September 2008
“The Violin Lover is a beautifully written novel, one that fans of violin music, as well as readers of serious literary fiction, will particularly appreciate.”
–Mayra Calvani, http://violinandbooks.wordpress.com/
Anthologies my fiction has been in:
Frictions, ed. Rhea Tregebov. Toronto: Second Story Press, 1989.
The Lyric Paragraph, ed. Robert Allen, Montrel: DC Books, 1987.
Open Windows, ed. Kent Thompson. Kingston, Ontario: Quarry Press, 1988.