The title of A Bird in the House has two meanings In the first, Vanessa s gentle grandmother Connor has a pet canary She would try to coax the canary into its crystal trilling, but it was a surly creature and obliged only occasionally When I asked my grandmother if the bird minded being there, she shook her head and said no, it had been there always and wouldn t know what to do with itself outside, and I thought this must surely be so, for it was a family saying that she couldn t tell a lie if her life depended on it.
In grandmother Connor s view, the world is a scary place and staying in the safe and familiar even remaining married to an abusive bully of a man is preferable to venturing into the unknown I am routinely astounded by the strength of the women in Margaret Laurence s books While the people of grandmother Connor s generation might have valued respectability and the good opinions of neighbours above all and submitting to this can take its own form of courage , their granddaughters, the Hagars and Morags and Vanessas, are given the self awareness to rebel against these stifling restrictions and seek a selfish fulfillment, that by today s standards, is every person s birthright I can be a bit impatient with strident feminism, but I do appreciate how far women have come in a relatively short period, thanks to the brave social pioneers who came before Although grandmother Connor wasn t lying when she said that she didn t think the canary minded the cage, Maya Angelou, of the brave social pioneering generation, got it truer The free bird leapson the back of the windand floats downstreamtill the current endsand dips his wingsin the orange sun raysand dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalksdown his narrow cagecan seldom see throughhis bars of ragehis wings are clipped andhis feet are tiedso he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird singswith fearful trillof the things unknownbut longed for stilland its tune is heardon the distant hill for the caged birdsings of freedomIn the second sense of the title, a hired girl remarks, upon freeing a sparrow that had found its way through a storm window, that A Bird in the House means a death in the house Vanessa s father dies soon after and the girl realises that death was always there, waiting to strike Whether sitting beside him at church or later finding an old love letter that had been hidden away, Vanessa realised that she never really knew her father, not his inner thoughts anyway, and this theme is repeated throughout the book When grandmother Connor dies, the family is shocked by how hard grandfather Connor takes it, and wonder if she ever knew the depths of his feelings When the old man himself finally dies at 96, his daughters wonder if they had been too hard on him, not understanding enough My favourite story in the collection is Horses of the Night Vanessa meets Chris, an older cousin who comes to live in Manawaka to attend high school He has a free spirit that matches her own and they become good friends When the circumstances of the Depression prevent him from attending university, when every plan he had to travel or make something of himself fails, he ends up back at the dirt poor farm he started out from When Vanessa goes to visit him, he is the first person to ever freely share his innermost thoughts with herPeople usually say there must be a God, Chris went on, because otherwise how did the universe get here But that s ridiculous If the stars and planets go on to infinity, they could have existed forever, for no reason at all Maybe they weren t ever created Look what s the alternative To believe in a God who is brutal What else could He be You ve only got to look anywhere around you It would be an insult to Him to believe in a God like thatI also like this quote because it reminded me of one of my all time favourite quotes by John Banville in The Sea Given the world that he created, it would be an impiety against God to believe in him Vanessa is so embarrassed by Chris naked frankness that she pretends to be asleep until he stops talking This felt the most relatable there are people I can regret not knowing better, but I can also be embarrassed by the idea of closeness One of the reasons I decided to challenge myself to write reviews here is in an effort to leave some sort of record of myself behind this is a fairly low risk venue for putting down some memories and impressions, perhaps my kids will be interested someday in reading what I thought of some book or other, maybe a grandchild If I were to insert a hello, would it be from the grave Although this is my challenge, and one that I wish I had taken up sooner oh, the lovely books I have read and not reviewed I can t see my sharing anything terribly personal here, or anywhere Like Vanessa, I don t know if I would even want to know the innermost thoughts of the people around me I don t want to know those of my parents I wouldn t want to know dark secrets of my grandparents How far back would I need to go before the blood is thinned enough that I could dispassionately hear the secrets of my ancestors How far forward would I go through the generations before I could comfortably choose a descendant to learn mine I might be closer to grandmother Connor than Maya Angelou after all the bird in my house doesn t long to be freed A couple of nice lines to end on In some families, please is described as the magic word In our house, however, it was sorry.
No human word could be applied The lake was not lonely or untamed These words relate to people, and there was nothing of people here There was no feeling about the place It existed in some world in which man was not yet born I looked at the grey reaches of it and felt threatened It was like the view of God which I had held since my father s death Distant, indestructible, totally indifferent.
As a final note, I am sorry that this is the last of the Manawaka Series that I had to read Over the course of five books, Margaret Laurence created a lovely little time capsule, a true treasure.
75 out of 5 starsI went upstairs to my room Momentarily I felt a sense of calm, almost acceptance Rest beyond the river I knew now what that meant It meant Nothing It meant only silence foreverReally enjoyed all the symbolism as well as the characters and their relationships.
A Bird in the House is the fourth book in the Manawaka Series by Margaret Laurence the common denominators being a female narrator and the fictional town of Manawaka, a small town in Saskatchewan, where the narrator currently or once lived.
In A Bird in the House, the female narrator is Vanessa MacLeod, a fourteen year old girl when the story starts and middle aged whe her story ends Vanessa s early dreams are to become a writer and she acts as one from a young age She is very observational, makes deductions about people and connections beyond her physical age and is always making notes about what is happening around her both real things and her thoughts about possibilities for future stories.
This book is a series of linked short stories short stories about Vanessa s relatives and her interactions with them The characters are wonderful Laurence as usual creates well developed and multi dimensional characters The story lines of each are not complicated They are stories of every day life but captured my interest immediately and engaged me from the get go.
As in many of the books of the Manawaka series, Laurence integrates the thoughts of the female narrator into the story line She does so in The Bird in the House as well, but Vanessa MacLeod is a fourteen year old and most of her thoughts aren t just thoughts they are right out there in the open, in the real world She makes comments She asks questions She rebels Her heart breaks and then she tells everyone about it This narrator is not a keep all one s thoughts inside kind of narrator She is out there and living in the moment which makes her very endearing and one of my favourite Manawaka series narrators One cannot help but be captiavated by Vanessa MacLeod.
As usual, Laurence s writing is terrific at times direct, often lyrical, engaging, wonderful about connecting the reader with its characters and carrying the reader along with the story line Margaret Laurence is a stellar writer who deserves to have a greater following for her talents She was creative and innovative long before it became popular to do so Due to her premature passing she stopped writing long before she shared all she had to offer Based on the small number of books Laurence wrote and had published before she passed, she is regarded as one of the twentieth century s great writers It is a shame she didn t live longer to write even books so that people all over the world would hold her in even higher esteem something her talents, vision, writing accomplishments and being so ahead of her time are so deserving of 4 stars.
This is an old favorite, and I picked it up to choose a story to include in my first year lit class in the fall Laurence renders beautifully the balance between skepticism and wonder that characterizes one girl s developing insights into the structure of the adult world that restrains and consoles her Each story is a jewel of introspection, but taken together, they form an episodic novel that is to me one of the most moving accounts in literature of finding your way through family dynamics The child at the centre of the stories, Vanessa, is sensitive to the undercurrents of emotion that rage beneath the sometimes placid, sometimes dour, sometimes cruel personae of her progenitors, but the book is most moving when its narrator captures the limits of such insight, the sense that everyone who comes before us is shaped by a multi layered past, that they will shape us in turn, and that we can get only glimpses of how and why it all means something.
A Bird in the House is the 4th book in a five book series that Margaret Laurence wrote about the fictional Manitoba town of Manawaka based on her hometown of Neepawa It s not a series in the sense that one normally thinks of a series the books are only loosely connected each one has a different main character and so they really stand alone There s no need to read them in order or together This is a book that I think I could re read over and over again It s actually not a novel, but eight interconnected short stories The stories center on the childhood of a girl who grows up to be a writer, essentially depicting the process of how a child becomes a writer.
Me ha recordado mucho a una pelicula, El Rio de Jean Renoir Una pena que Margaret Laurence no haya sido editada en castellano, una escritora inmensa a la altura de Alice Munro o Margaret Atwood.
Qu buenas son las escritoras canadienses l Vanessa Was Born In The Small Manitoba Town Of Manawaka A World Of Proud Personal Struggles, Bitter Family Conflicts, And Unyielding Prairie TraditionsIt Was Here, In The Lean Years Of The Depression, That She Came Into Her Own, A Courageous Provincial Girl Determined To Satisfy Her Thirst For FreedomA Brilliant Collection Of Short Stories By Canada S Most Celebrated, Most Popular Novelist And Part Of Her Acclaimed Manawaka Series Which Also Includes The Diviners, A Jest Of God, The Stone Angel And The Fire Dwellers Such a beautiful book It made me nostalgic for a time and place I ve never experienced Simple yet haunting I m not normally one for child protagonists, but Vanessa is neither saccharine nor overly sassy precocious I want to write like this.
What a classic The writing is pitch perfect, the stories all consuming A truly wonderful collection of short stories.