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As for Me and My House (Canadian Fiction Studies)

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Canadian Fiction Studies are an answer to every librarian's, student's, and teacher's wishes. Each book contains clear information on a major Canadian novel. Attractively produced, they contain a chronology of the author's life, information on the importance of the book and its critical reception, an in-depth reading of the text, and a selected list of works cited.


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Canadian Fiction Studies are an answer to every librarian's, student's, and teacher's wishes. Each book contains clear information on a major Canadian novel. Attractively produced, they contain a chronology of the author's life, information on the importance of the book and its critical reception, an in-depth reading of the text, and a selected list of works cited.

30 review for As for Me and My House (Canadian Fiction Studies)

  1. 4 out of 5

    ALLEN

    "It's an immense night out there, wheeling and windy. The lights on the street and in the houses against the black wetness, little unilluminating glints that might be painted on it. The town seems huddled together, cowering on a high tiny perch, afraid to move lest it topple into the wind . . ." An amazing Canadian novel from 1941, AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE has been growing in stature for over 75 years. Told (small spoiler: not entirely "reliably" as it turns out) by an impoverished minister's wife "It's an immense night out there, wheeling and windy. The lights on the street and in the houses against the black wetness, little unilluminating glints that might be painted on it. The town seems huddled together, cowering on a high tiny perch, afraid to move lest it topple into the wind . . ." An amazing Canadian novel from 1941, AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE has been growing in stature for over 75 years. Told (small spoiler: not entirely "reliably" as it turns out) by an impoverished minister's wife in a Saskatchewan hamlet in the 1930s, it contains a hardscrabble look at Prairie Province (part of Great Plains) life in the Thirties. Unfortunately, the novel was not published until 1941 when Canada was already at war and in the USA, literary taste had moved from the sociological to the confessional. Never mind that, AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE is a great book and should be read -- more than once is best. Subtle, heartbreaking and yes, at times a little grueling -- but well worth it for all that. Something I had neglected to mention when I originally reviewed this book: although this novel is set in Canada (Saskatchewan, "Canada's Breadbasket"), it does not dwell on its Canadian-ness. Thus references to institutions like the Social Credit Party or pooled grain elevators don't come into play. It could just about as easily have taken place in the Dakotas, say. NOTE: The title of this very worthy novel comes from the Bible, Joshua 24:15 -- ". . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Update: September 1, 2018

  2. 4 out of 5

    Donster

    I would rather poke my eyes out with a rusty needle than read this again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    Not a book that most adolescents would enjoy, but my favourite Canadian novel. An overlooked classic that deserves more attention internationally. Yes, it's bleak, but it's gloriously bleak.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zee

    What can I say, Ross's writing is absolutely amazing. The character of Mrs.Bentley is one of the most complex, layered and interesting I've seen in a long while. Oh Mrs.Bentley, I still don't know what to make of you after having finished this book.The novel is set in the prairies during the depression and written in diary entries from her point of view. She is certainly not a reliable narrator, but at the same time, she has moments of such lucidity that it makes you wonder if she's really just d What can I say, Ross's writing is absolutely amazing. The character of Mrs.Bentley is one of the most complex, layered and interesting I've seen in a long while. Oh Mrs.Bentley, I still don't know what to make of you after having finished this book.The novel is set in the prairies during the depression and written in diary entries from her point of view. She is certainly not a reliable narrator, but at the same time, she has moments of such lucidity that it makes you wonder if she's really just deceiving herself. That as she says in the beginning: that she is putting up a false front, not just to the town or us the reader, but to herself as well. The very ideas she puts up are a cover for things she dare not admit even to herself, because she feels that her very being is at stake. That which she knows (and what she claims to know but has no way of accessing) and tries to omit, will somehow not exist should she not acknowledge it. I do feel sorry for Philip, but not in that he's married to "that woman". He chose and continues to choose to be with her. (view spoiler)[Rather it is in his realizations, revealed through the story in his artwork, that he is like the horses he paints(his name means lover of horses); then his resignation in the end to continue to be tied like those horses together to his wife. Even though that being tied together may mean that he has to give in and become like the cattle (last work shown in the book)plodding through the snow towards a distant home. Definitely a foreboding concept, especially with what is revealed about Mrs.Bentley.<\spoiler> Anyways, I really enjoyed this one even though many of my friends did not. However, I can not leave without putting in this quote, because in the context of the narrative, it was one of the most beautiful and profoundly moving passages I have ever read. May 30th entry (Pg 91): "...then I went sentimental for a minute, and he let me. I didn't know anything like that could happen to me. It was as if once, twelve years ago, I had heard the beginning of a piece of music, and then a door had closed. But within me, in my mind and blood, the music had kept on, and when at last they opened the door again I was at the right place, had held the rhythm all the way." (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    This wonderful book was such a surprise to me. It was assigned reading in a university Canadian literature course, and although my friends disliked it, I loved it. The bleak prairie town in which the pastor and his wife settle, the emotionally-distant pastor, his pent-up wife, the disapproving townspeople - they all appealed to the inner desire I have to see what it would be like to live in the middle of the prairies, bleak in winter, hay-filled in summer. It was written with imagination and pas This wonderful book was such a surprise to me. It was assigned reading in a university Canadian literature course, and although my friends disliked it, I loved it. The bleak prairie town in which the pastor and his wife settle, the emotionally-distant pastor, his pent-up wife, the disapproving townspeople - they all appealed to the inner desire I have to see what it would be like to live in the middle of the prairies, bleak in winter, hay-filled in summer. It was written with imagination and passion and, I suspect, with someone raised within strict confines. One of my very favourite books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fatma

    i hated this book so fucking much omg GOOD GOD. THAT WAS ALMOST PHYSICALLY PAINFUL TO READ. Nope. Scratch that. This WAS physically painful to read. This book is The Actual Worst.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Annabel Youens

    I hated the mandatory high school short story "The White Door" by Sinclair Ross - so dreary, boring and Canadian - ECK In my early twenties a colleague heard me complain about the experience & thrust Sinclair's only novel into my hand and said I must read it. I've come to think the older you are the more value, insights and enjoyment you get from this novel. This is my second read and I'm staggered to realize that on this time through I am older than the two main characters. I have a far grea I hated the mandatory high school short story "The White Door" by Sinclair Ross - so dreary, boring and Canadian - ECK In my early twenties a colleague heard me complain about the experience & thrust Sinclair's only novel into my hand and said I must read it. I've come to think the older you are the more value, insights and enjoyment you get from this novel. This is my second read and I'm staggered to realize that on this time through I am older than the two main characters. I have a far greater understanding on the nuances between a couple who've been together for 10 years - silences - joy - unavailability. Sinclair's language and descriptions of the prairie are unique and have a dream like quality. They remind me so clearly of summer camping on Alberta prairie, those wide skies. And while the story is firmly grounded in desperation, solitude and a sense of hopelessness the novel doesn't drag you down. The language, that complex wife & husband relationship and the house itself all bring you along on their story of small town Canadian life and new horizons.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Dowd

    "As for Me and My House" is a story that takes place on the Canadian Plains during the Depression. A preacher's wife is the narrator and protagonist of the novel, writing her diary entries during a year in a small town of Horizon. While the description of the elemental hardships and encompassing wind are beautiful, it does not redeem the novel. It goes from boring, to depressing, to disappointing, to a final throw down of the book upon the table after I forced myself to read all 230-odd pages of "As for Me and My House" is a story that takes place on the Canadian Plains during the Depression. A preacher's wife is the narrator and protagonist of the novel, writing her diary entries during a year in a small town of Horizon. While the description of the elemental hardships and encompassing wind are beautiful, it does not redeem the novel. It goes from boring, to depressing, to disappointing, to a final throw down of the book upon the table after I forced myself to read all 230-odd pages of the book. I would say that if you liked "My Antonia" by Willia Cather, you might get more out of the novel than I did. I found that the woman (who is never really named) was weak and hollow and the husband was petulant and moody and not in the cute EMO way either. Read it if you must.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    I read this book originally in grade 12 with an incredible Canadian Literature teacher. He made this solemn, still-seeming novel into something intricate and mysterious. He suggested the possibilities of Mrs. Bentley as an orchestrator of all the events of the novel, he made this simple book into an extraordinary complex novel with incredible imagery, symbolism, and hidden possibilities that are not immediately obvious. I read it again 2 years later at the university level, and although I'm stil I read this book originally in grade 12 with an incredible Canadian Literature teacher. He made this solemn, still-seeming novel into something intricate and mysterious. He suggested the possibilities of Mrs. Bentley as an orchestrator of all the events of the novel, he made this simple book into an extraordinary complex novel with incredible imagery, symbolism, and hidden possibilities that are not immediately obvious. I read it again 2 years later at the university level, and although I'm still amazed by Mrs. Bentley, her role and influence within the plot seemed perhaps more obvious, and also more uncertain.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darren Tang

    For over two hundred and thirty pages Ross illustrates the slow, painful disintegration of a marriage in a small town somewhere in Canada. If your wife ever plans on divorcing you for sleeping with her younger sister in Mexico after video footage of your honeymoon surfaces on the internet, just get her to read this novel. Then you can be like: "See babe. We're not so bad...".

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Mooney

    Upon this re-read three decades later, I was put off by the near-Gothic over-the-topness of this novel. A desperately unhappy preacher and his wife, equally miserable, project on and withhold from each other in the crappiest ways imaginable and—heaven forbid—are actually allowed near children. And the prairie town’s buildings have evil false fronts, evil I tell you, and the manse is a cramped, leaky prison and the wind and rain are also evil and those false fronts and that prison and the wind an Upon this re-read three decades later, I was put off by the near-Gothic over-the-topness of this novel. A desperately unhappy preacher and his wife, equally miserable, project on and withhold from each other in the crappiest ways imaginable and—heaven forbid—are actually allowed near children. And the prairie town’s buildings have evil false fronts, evil I tell you, and the manse is a cramped, leaky prison and the wind and rain are also evil and those false fronts and that prison and the wind and the rain and those false—just shoot me now!

  12. 4 out of 5

    R K

    Upon reflection I have decided to bump up to a full 5 stars, YAY! This is a 1.00 a.m review so.............. First off let me say that I am just shocked by the depth of which the MC is written by. It's a female lead and her personality is one that you mostly see the extreme version of in today's literature/arts, not so much in past ones. It's the same shock I got when I read East of Eden and encountered a certain character that displayed characteristics that I honestly thought just become prevalent Upon reflection I have decided to bump up to a full 5 stars, YAY! This is a 1.00 a.m review so.............. First off let me say that I am just shocked by the depth of which the MC is written by. It's a female lead and her personality is one that you mostly see the extreme version of in today's literature/arts, not so much in past ones. It's the same shock I got when I read East of Eden and encountered a certain character that displayed characteristics that I honestly thought just become prevalent now. There's a part of your brain that just goes, "Whoa, that was there even back then?!" This book doesn't really have a plot nor is it a character driven book. In fact, nothing much happens other then ordinary life events (well ordinary for the 30's) during the depression. The book is literally a women recording the events of her life for around a year and yet it tells so much more. Such a flawed unreliable narrator and we never even learn her name which makes sense as this book is technically her diary so why would she mention her name? But the lack of inputting a name reveals something else too. This diary should probably be rewritten as, An Ode of Phillip. In other words, the unnamed wife of the Pastor Phillip dedicates her entire world to her husband. Yet it's not spousal obedience, it's obsession. The Mrs. has revolved her entire life and purpose around him. He is the centre of her focus. She wants his attention and affection. Yet it's not portrayed in a creepy "I must have you" way. It's very subtle and mostly revealed in her diary. There is a part of her that wants his attention. A part that wants to control him and a part that fears him a little. She is in no way a reliable narrator. You cannot take what she sees and thinks as what actual happened. And yet, although she is happy trying to vie for him she is fully aware that it will probably never be a game she wins. She is fully aware of her obsession and knows it's not good nor right. She is fully aware that her husband does not and will not include her in his life. After all she is a women, she would never be included in her husbands private fears. She knows all this. She hates it but knows that nothing she can do will get him to change. Rather, she does her best to create a world for him to come to when his breaks down. MC is also one of artistic temperament. She often laments upon her decision to give up her career as a pianist. She had the skills yet gave it all up for her husband. Now, there is the sense of artistic failure that always pops up whenever she breaks down. In a way, this obsession for him may be something that all wives during the 30's felt. The need to have their existence validated. Their need to please others in hopes of having someone return the favour. Overall, she is a very interesting character and I am amazed by the level of depth Ross went into her especially considering it was in the 40's/ 50's when he wrote this book. Moving on to Phillip. Based on what I told you about him from his wife's POV you might hate him. Yet, he is not entirely to be hated. He had a rough upbringing that always placed him on the outside of society, never to be included and he carries that grudge against the people with him and lets it taint everything and one around him. He is also a pastor who does not believe in god. He hates this hypocrisy but he has no other options (in his opinion). It constantly plagues him and he is always trying to put up walls to keep people from finding out. He hates his dependence on the Church but again, feels like he had no other options. Like his wife, he too is one of artistic temperament. He is obsessed with painting. So much obsession that he has developed artist block for quiet some time now. He is by nature distant from people. He spends all his free time in his study. He never physically, verbally, emotionally, or, mentally abuses his wife but his distance from her is destroying her but he doesn't know it or chooses to ignore it. It's kind of like two people who cannot stand each other yet also know that they are dependent on each other. There is a constant air of strain amplified by the house they live in and the stress of depression. It vocalizes more then is said. It's kind of hard to point in words what this book is about because it's definitely something that needs to be read to be understood. It's a really great book to analyze and if anyone is interested in discussing this book please feel free to send a message.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    As one of the saddest books I've ever read, this one had me quite eager to get to the last chapter and end the pain. Not the pain of a bad book but the pain of a tormented main character, one so terribly inconsequential in her own mind that she never even gives us that most basic and personal piece of information about herself, a name. She remains throughout the book just her husband's wife, Mrs. Mr. and Mrs. Bentley have just relocated to an unpromising little prairie town called Horizon, where As one of the saddest books I've ever read, this one had me quite eager to get to the last chapter and end the pain. Not the pain of a bad book but the pain of a tormented main character, one so terribly inconsequential in her own mind that she never even gives us that most basic and personal piece of information about herself, a name. She remains throughout the book just her husband's wife, Mrs. Mr. and Mrs. Bentley have just relocated to an unpromising little prairie town called Horizon, where he will be the pastor of a small church. The unfortunate thing (actually one of many) is that this particular minister of the gospel doesn't believe in God and hates standing in the pulpit every Sunday and lying. He does it only to earn a living, and because he doesn't have the courage to be what he wants - and has the talent - to be, an artist. Their new town is miserably cold and barren in winter, miserably hot and barren in summer; the church members are judgmental, unkind people who rarely think of anyone but themselves except as topics for gossip; and the house provided as part of his painfully insufficient wage package is small, dilapidated and unattractive. This turns out to be a perfect setting for the excruciatingly strained relationship between the two of them. I know it sounds like I must be exaggerating, but it really is that bad. Again, not the book, but the situation. The writing is good, the characters credible and the situation truer to life than is altogether comfortable. There were a couple of times when reading it that I found my mind wandering and I had to force it back to the narrative, but I don't see that as a flaw in this book. Everything about it, everything, reinforced the numb ache of Mrs. Bentley's life and her hopeless attempts to make a life with a man as unyielding as the climate itself. The uncomfortable reality is that many people live this life. Different towns, different times, but the same feeling of invisibility, the same vulnerability to the impulses and inclinations of someone they love and believe they cannot live without, even in the face of the loved one's obvious lack of love in return. This woman made me feel anger because she wouldn't see her husband as the mean, selfish fraud that he was, then sadness because her pain was deep and constant, and finally almost hopeless, because sometimes life just seems too, too hard. In the end I found myself asking who the real coward was. Was it him for choosing the easier way, a life of lies that would poison his own soul and batter hers, or was it her, for giving in to the notion that she was better off being mistreated by the man she loved than living life without him? I have no answer. Obviously I did not read this as a disinterested observer; I'm not sure any woman could. It's painful and sad, and disturbing on a raw emotional level. Still, it is a good book and one I'd recommend to most adult readers, with the possible exception of anyone dealing with depression or grief because it does leave you with a deep and lingering sense of melancholy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    After careful consideration and a night's sleep, I'm fairly certain this is the worst book I have ever read in my life. I wish I could divorce myself from my feelings about the plot and the characters. Because, I'll be honest, the writing was stellar. But is a book not supposed to be a unit as a whole? As such, the other parts of this novel just made it awful. I've read Sinclair Ross before. I liked The Lamp at Noon. He can write a depressing short story. He should not, however, take it and try to After careful consideration and a night's sleep, I'm fairly certain this is the worst book I have ever read in my life. I wish I could divorce myself from my feelings about the plot and the characters. Because, I'll be honest, the writing was stellar. But is a book not supposed to be a unit as a whole? As such, the other parts of this novel just made it awful. I've read Sinclair Ross before. I liked The Lamp at Noon. He can write a depressing short story. He should not, however, take it and try to make it a feature length epic. I can admire the cleverness of his writing, the unreliable narrator, the intricacies of the plot, and the stark realism. But I just CANNOT read a novel that is so realistic it is boring. Was there no way to spice up the plot? I feel there were so many passages with Mrs. Bentley TRYING to be insightful that reminded me of being 15 years old and trying to puzzle out the world through my blog. It's cutesy, sure, but not what I want to read in a novel about a grown woman. Realism can only go so far. Especially when she begins to repeat the same ideas with very little difference. Going on the same walks. It's like reading your own life ... but worse. Because the novel makes you feel trapped. This book made me DEPRESSED, like reading Elizabeth Wurtzel. But at least with reading her, I'm like "oh hey I'm never gonna turn into a crazy woman with a trichtillomaniac obession for pulling my leg hairs out with tweezers! That's so crazy I can't fathom doing it". But I can imagine being Mrs. Bentley and feeling trapped in a place, with people. What aggravated me further was that I do NOT agree with Mrs. Bentley. I think she was a lunatic and should have just run off with Paul. They could have been very happy together in some other little town. She was too obsessed with Phillip and needed to chill. The fact that she could be that crazy and go unnoticed just felt really unrealistic to me. Like, wouldn't other people notice you were a lunatic obessive woman about your husband? Or were you just that clever? Well, maybe she was clever. But her diary was the most boring thing I've ever read in my life. I think even my 15 year old musings were better and more fun than this. If I never have to see this book again, it will be too soon. If this is supposed to be the ultimate novel of Canada, I feel sorry for our lives. Are we really this pathetic and depressing and crazy?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross is a Canadian novel that tells the story of a marriage through the journal entries of Mrs. Bentley, the wife of a minister with serious doubts regarding his faith. Phillip Bentley feels crippled by his hypocrisy and suffocated by life in the "false-front towns" where he preaches on the Canadian prairie. Mrs. Bentley in turn suffers from Phillip's emotional distance and the disconnect that she feels from the people in the town of Horizon. Told exclusively fr As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross is a Canadian novel that tells the story of a marriage through the journal entries of Mrs. Bentley, the wife of a minister with serious doubts regarding his faith. Phillip Bentley feels crippled by his hypocrisy and suffocated by life in the "false-front towns" where he preaches on the Canadian prairie. Mrs. Bentley in turn suffers from Phillip's emotional distance and the disconnect that she feels from the people in the town of Horizon. Told exclusively from Mrs. Bentley's perspective, As For Me and My House manages to convey the barren grandeur of the landscape and the stifling quality of small-town life. The language of the novel is sparse and haunting and it builds to create a sense of emotional weight within the reader. As For Me and My House was a wonderful introduction to Canadian literature. It left me feeling conflicted and unsatisfied, but in a way that increased my respect for the book itself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    I read this book some years ago, but I remember finding it an immensely good read. It's definitely not a happy story, but Sinclair Ross enables readers to almost taste the dust of the 1930s prairie dust storms, and feel the tension between the husband and wife in the story. This is a book I will definitely look for and read again.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Lewton

    We’ll written, colorful and language about living in a treacherous time. A slow moving story, but moves in interesting ways. The main character was challenging to relate to, but probably because of the time in which it is set. Although fiction, it is a very believable tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evie

    Thoroughly depressing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Moloney

    If the Little House on the Prairie books had been written in Canada, geared towards adults who enjoy being depressed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tomas

    Despite being a Canadian, up until this point in time I haven't read very many novels written by Canadians that are set exclusively in a Canadian setting. I've read a few contemporary titles by authors such as Heather O’Neill and Michael Winter, but I wouldn't call any of them particularly fantastic. Maybe I should've started reading from the beginning of the Can lit canon, because Sinclair Ross' As for Me and My House definitely impressed me. I'd read one other Sinclair Ross story before this ( Despite being a Canadian, up until this point in time I haven't read very many novels written by Canadians that are set exclusively in a Canadian setting. I've read a few contemporary titles by authors such as Heather O’Neill and Michael Winter, but I wouldn't call any of them particularly fantastic. Maybe I should've started reading from the beginning of the Can lit canon, because Sinclair Ross' As for Me and My House definitely impressed me. I'd read one other Sinclair Ross story before this (the short story "A Field of Wheat"), and for a man who was a banker by profession I must say he was an extraordinarily savvy writer, being able to evoke powerful, rich images in his sparse and bleak snapshots of Canadian prairie life in the early twentieth century. Written as a diary during the Depression era, the tale is told from the vantage point of Mrs. Bentley, a middle-aged minister’s wife whose first name is never revealed. Married to the reticent and artistic Philip, the couple have just arrived in windswept Horizon at another church posting, and neither of them are enthusiastic about their new surroundings (to say the least). Philip approaches his preaching duties without an ounce of passion, for he is only a preacher to put food on the table – a fact that his wife knows too well. The marriage is a cold and unfeeling one, full of silent tension and unrequited affection. Mrs. Bentley is devoted to her husband, but Philip seems to take little pleasure in keeping his wife company, preferring the isolation of his study to her presence. The rather stark and ugly parsonage soon becomes a character of its own as the neglected wife has little to do but to huddle gloomily within its confines. Life plods on, and so do the seasons, and Ross expertly chronicles the passage of time in confluence with Horizon’s environment, one that is full of gale and dust, sun and scorched land. There is an element missing in the Bentleys’ life, one they desperately seek to patch with an adopted local boy and a wolfhound. But for all their trials, there is always endless tribulation, and satisfaction seems a distant dream. Ross details these situations with breathtaking erudition, layering his story with a myriad of effortless nuances that require a close and intimate reading to appreciate. The characters he brings to life are as realistic and flawed as they come, and the unreliable, limited narration via Mrs. Bentley makes every evasion as important as every extrapolation. This is not a book for everyone, and I'd imagine it has frustrated a fair number of casual readers over the decades due to its arguably slow-paced story, repetitive descriptions of the environment and weather, and the emotionally distant characters that are certainly hard to sympathize with. It's deceptively short, and it’s not a book to be read in one sitting (or even two). It's a book that should wash over you gradually, a book that needs to breathe on its own and simmer in your mind. Even though, on the surface, there is an undeniable tedium to the repetitions and representations akin to the realist tradition, the fruits lie await in the labour of the reader. Fruits that are beautifully rendered, that display a great amount of true perceptive grace in the psychology of character and interaction. This is a book that is only boring to the reader who refuses to leave his shelter and take a leap into the unguarded.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Duncan Holness

    It's hard to like a book that makes you think so much, and ties very closely to negative experiences that you may have had, but this one managed to make me do just that. Ross' narrator remains unnamed throughout the story and really makes you focus on what is going on in her life, the plot, rather than on her, the character, specifically. Having said that, unless you have lived in a very small town, this book may not truly make sense to you. I've lived in two, both in Ross' home province of Sask It's hard to like a book that makes you think so much, and ties very closely to negative experiences that you may have had, but this one managed to make me do just that. Ross' narrator remains unnamed throughout the story and really makes you focus on what is going on in her life, the plot, rather than on her, the character, specifically. Having said that, unless you have lived in a very small town, this book may not truly make sense to you. I've lived in two, both in Ross' home province of Saskatchewan, I'm painfully well aware of what life can be like in said small towns. Not having lived through the Depression, though, I really had to shake my head and marvel at the descriptions of dust so thick and heavy that it would reach almost to the tops of fences in places. This book hooks you in right off the bat, and, although it can be difficult to follow along with the facts, which are often guessed at, rather than explained in detail, the story pushes and pulls the reader through events which are immense and intense, and yet often relatively insignificant on a grand scale. Well worth the read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    *3.5

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaeli Wood

    this book came into my home and beat me up, then ate all my groceries and left. a must-read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Mrs. Bentley is a complex character; while sometimes infuriatingly dependent, she also reveals a very human hypocrisy and weakness.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Reading is one of the best ways to expose oneself to new perspectives. Good literature summons pathos for characters, even when their situations differ from our own—perhaps especially when. I’m not just talking about science fiction and fantasy, spaceships and magic wands; all literature is ultimately about experiencing the Other through an author’s prose. This is the transformative act that is reading. I’m getting all literary critic here because As for Me and My House is one of those transforma Reading is one of the best ways to expose oneself to new perspectives. Good literature summons pathos for characters, even when their situations differ from our own—perhaps especially when. I’m not just talking about science fiction and fantasy, spaceships and magic wands; all literature is ultimately about experiencing the Other through an author’s prose. This is the transformative act that is reading. I’m getting all literary critic here because As for Me and My House is one of those transformative works. It is quintessentially a “Great Depression novel”, a work that pulls you from your present time and thrusts upon you the perspective of one who is attempting to keep it all together in the face of economic and social vicissitudes. The book is deceptively slim: owing to its epistolary form, it is mostly description with little dialogue. The result is something that works quite well as a glimpse at the Depression—but it still leaves me with some reservations. I shall start and end with Mrs. Bentley. Really, everything about As for Me and My House comes back to our narrator. Stories told in the first person are always more of a relationship between narrator and reader. The narrator asks of the reader a modicum of trust: the reader must trust that the tale is, if not strictly true, then at least worth telling. First-person narratives are inherently narcissistic, because the narrator tends only to focus on the events and emotions important to him or to her. Indeed, when an author does it right, first-person narrators should be, to some extent, unreliable. If not, then what is the point of using a first-person narrator at all? So in Mrs. Bentley, Sinclair Ross delivers an extremely interesting narrator. Not being a woman myself, I can’t comment on whether Ross successfully captures a woman’s perspective. (I found it satisfying in that regard, but that could be male-pattern blindness.) I know Mrs. Bentley’s missing first name is a source of controversy: some reviewers praise it as a symbol of her desire to remain anonymous, even in her own diary; others see it as another symbol of her oppression by and sublimation to Philip, and perhaps some insensitivity and sexism on Ross’ part. So this book has plenty of room for different interpretations, different schools of criticism. There’s a lot of subtext here, if one has the time and patience to tease it out. (My edition has an afterword by Robert Kroetsch, who is apparently a noted authority of postmodernism. I would like to see an afterword from a feminist author.) That limiting factor, patience, depends entirely on how one feels about Mrs. Bentley’s voice. She is the novel, and Ross puts her on an interesting trajectory. At the beginning, she is a sympathetic character: capable and handy, but limited by her gender and station. Both she and her husband have other aspirations, but they are forced to get by as wife and pastor. Through Mrs. Bentley’s diary entries, we see the joys and difficulties of living in a small prairie town. They experience the effect of drought on the town’s livelihood, the largesse and the pettiness of neighbours, and the conflicts of religion and class. Toward the end of the novel, however, Mrs. Bentley gradually becomes less sympathetic. She starts obsessing over the nature of the relationship between Philip and country girl Judith West, and she plots to adopt the child that Judith bears out of wedlock. I confess I’m a sucker for righteous indignation at close-mindedness. The snobbery of the Finleys pushed all my buttons! At every turn it seemed like the Bentleys were at a disadvantage because they were trying to do the right thing, to be good people, when the Finleys were too focused on being proper people (because for them, of course, what is proper must also be good). This is also part of a larger critique of Christian congregations in prairie towns: Philip is a minister who does not particularly believe in the Church, and his congregation has plenty of people who do not necessarily reflect all the Christian values, like charity and tolerance and love. So Mrs. Bentley and I were usually in agreement about these episodes, and it was interesting to see when she chose to rock the boat and when she chose to keep the peace…. As fun as it is to criticize the secondary characters, their flaws are far less fascinating than those of the main characters. As for Me and My House, as its title implies, is about a family. Mrs. Bentley and Philip are the permanent members of this family, with Steve a temporary adjunct and a baby by the end. Close friends of the Bentleys, like Paul and Judith, orbit this arrangement. Mrs. Bentley’s entries, in both style and subject matter, usually concentrate on the details: her descriptions are meticulous and precise; her concerns are often quotidian, related to budgets and numbers and the pragmatism necessary in an economic depression. We get a good sense of the struggle between living and saving, as well as the thin line between being seen as generous and being seen as extravagant (which would never do for a minister and his wife!). Lately I’ve been applying me “English teacher” eye to everything I read, because we are being trained to think about how we would teach things like novels, and I can see how I would teach this one: it would really speak to detail-oriented, practical students. How did people live during the Depression? What sort of tensions did poverty cause in a town and within a family? (As long as poverty exists, that question will be as relevant in the present day as it is for the era this novel depicts.) Most of Mrs. Bentley’s entries focus on her relationship with Philip. She gave up a career as a pianist for Philip, but then Philip abandoned his dreams of artistry for the more steady job of clergyman. Twelve years later, their marriage has gone stale. Do they still love each other? Difficult to say (and I won’t spoil it for you). But their lives are not easy, and so neither is their marriage. Even accounting for bias, Philip does things that understandably frustrate his wife—and she is sometimes no better toward him. Despite her unique position as narrator, Mrs. Bentley is often harsher on herself than she is on Philip. She criticizes and regrets some of her own choices, particularly when it comes to how she handles Philip and Steve’s relationship. She acknowledges when she has probably overreacted, and she tells us when she lies to Philip (to her credit, she usually tells him too). And then there’s Judith and Paul. Paul and Judith. The other two points in the love constellation—or if not love, then … companionship. Paul and Judith offer Mrs. Bentley and Philip, respectively, the possibility of infidelity in a way that, as far as Mrs. Bentley tells us, has never manifested before. In a somewhat postmodern twist, Ross keeps the extent of these relationships ambiguous: we ultimately don’t learn whether Philip is the father of Judith’s baby or what exactly happens between Mrs. Bentley and Paul. I think it’s safe to say that Mrs. Bentley is fairly convinced of Philip’s infidelity, for this is the primary attraction of adopting Judith’s child. And this is where As for Me and My House founders: Judith dies; the Bentleys get the babe … and Mrs. Bentley writes this: For me it’s easier this way. It’s secretly what I’ve been hoping for all along. I’m glad she’s gone—glad—for her sake as much as ours. What was there ahead of her now anyway? If I lost Philip what would there be ahead of me? Again, there’s that unusual, almost perverse honesty from our narrator: she confesses to feeling relief that Judith has died. Judith—and some might disagree here—never seemed to me like she was intentionally attempting to draw Philip into her grasp. Even if she did, however, it’s a horrible sentiment for Mrs. Bentley to have, and this confession cannot help but colour the sympathy one has hopefully heretofore experienced for her. I don’t think it makes her a monster though. Her mistakes and her weaknesses are all too human. As for Me and My House catalogues a couple who are constantly struggling not to slip from the principles they have set out before them. They do not always succeed. The result is a thing we call life. Sometimes life is hard because the universe is not fair, society is not perfect, and other people suck. Sometimes life is hard because we make it hard, through our choices as much as through our successes and failures. It’s interesting to note its publication history, with McClelland & Stewart essentially marketing it into the Canadian classics after they reissued it in 1957. I guess the zeitgeist changed sufficiently in the interim to make this book more appealing—perhaps the additional distance from the Depression helped too. This checkered past dovetails with my own final evaluation: I enjoyed As for Me and My House, but I think it suffers from the Postmodernist Uncertainty Principle. Without generalizing too much, I shall explain: sometimes the ambiguity that often appears in postmodern works constrains the impact of a book even if it frees the reader to imagine the ending. There are times when the confirmation of an event is the bedrock on which its significance and potency rests. It’s that conflict between what a book is and what we want it to be—and if a book can be anything we want, then what meaning does it have? So this book, such as it is, certainly generated a lot of thought on my part…. I would not go so far as it to call it a classic of Canadian literature, but it is an interesting perspective of life during the Great Depression. The characterization is simultaneously intensely intricate and extremely vague; the relationships are complicated and ambiguous yet delicious all the same. As for Me and My House is a story about a woman who must be introspective; she sets her doubts down on paper to render them powerless over her life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carolina

    Originally posted at: A Girl that Likes Books First impression On my "quest" to read more Canadian Literature I joined the Hello Hemlock book club and this was the first pick of 2015. Being the first time I read anything from the author I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a very raw, rather bleak image of Saskatchewan in the 1940s. This is not a bad thing mind you, I feel like the author managed to translate not only the coldness of the weather but the coldness of the people in his stor Originally posted at: A Girl that Likes Books First impression On my "quest" to read more Canadian Literature I joined the Hello Hemlock book club and this was the first pick of 2015. Being the first time I read anything from the author I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a very raw, rather bleak image of Saskatchewan in the 1940s. This is not a bad thing mind you, I feel like the author managed to translate not only the coldness of the weather but the coldness of the people in his story. However, the story being told by the wife (she remains nameless all through the book) I was sad, albeit not surprised, to have it told in a submissive, almost weak voice that had let go of all desires and dreams. It's a woman's way, I suppose, to keep on trying to subdue a man, to bind him to her, and it's a man's way to keep on just as determined to be free Final thoughts While I enjoyed the experience given by this story I did not enjoy the story itself, nor did I like the narrator. Our narrator was (in my opinion) the image of "her time" almost to the dot. Left her dreams of being a musician behind, bends to her husband's decisions even if she doesn't agree with them, and puts her down quite often. The book was originally published in the early 1940s, so I would think that she is a product of the woman image back then and the construction of a character that is meant to be sorrowful and heartbroken. As I mentioned, I haven't read anything else from Ross so I can't be sure if that's the way he always depicted women, but this fragile type of female character was pretty common for a long time, particularly when the author was male. The narrator is a complex one, that I have to admit, but I just felt sad every time she would talk about herself. A couple of time she would try to take a stand, to afterwards either feel guilty, or just bend to others whims. Towards the end she sort of becomes determined, but for all the wrong reasons. What did I enjoyed about the experience was mostly related to the landscape described by the author. It was very immersive; I could easily feel the emptiness of the landscape, the loneliness of the small town and more than the physical landscape, it is easy to understand the "feel" of the town: the lack any culture other than the one related to the Protestant church, the pettiness of some of the characters and off course, the dependence on appearances in such a small enclave as this small town is portrayed. The part I probably liked the most is the cultural critique, namely: In the car, Paul said thoughtfully that that was the worst penalty inflicted by education, the way it separates you from the people who are really close to you, among whom you would otherwise belong. I chose this quote because it is something that, as any grad student has probably felt, the more specialized you become on one subject, the highest the risk to isolate yourself of other people whom, in other situation, you would enjoy immensely. I guess I can see why this is one of the mandatory reads for many schools here in Canada. I can also see why so many readers found it heavy to read and ultimately not engaging, or boring even. I am not sure who I would recommend this book, other than to others like me that would like to learn a bit more of Canadian Literature.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    This book is one that is both hard to read and begs to be read multiple times. There is so much packed into its 216 pages. Its an epistolary novel, in the form of the diary of a minister's wife. It spans one year starting as they arrive in a small Saskatchewan prairie town in the middle of the 1930's depression (this is one in a series of many, which tells you a lot): our story is set in a landscape and a climate that is unforgiving and lays everything bare - there are no comforts to be had in n This book is one that is both hard to read and begs to be read multiple times. There is so much packed into its 216 pages. Its an epistolary novel, in the form of the diary of a minister's wife. It spans one year starting as they arrive in a small Saskatchewan prairie town in the middle of the 1930's depression (this is one in a series of many, which tells you a lot): our story is set in a landscape and a climate that is unforgiving and lays everything bare - there are no comforts to be had in nature here. The town is suffering, many people are barely scraping by after 5 years of drought, and the social life of the town is that of so many small towns - stifling, harsh and dull. Or, that latter interpretation is certainly the view of our minister's wife. But our minister's wife is at the end of her tether and I think her interpretation of her town and its inhabitants often lacks kindness because of this. Her world is bleak. Her marriage is unhappy almost to the point of being hopelessly so, and her husband is a very complicated man. She has given all of herself to him and wonders almost daily if it was worth it. He is cold, hard, and shares nothing of his inner life with her anymore, even though it is just the two of them. Her loneliness is so profound, and that is what makes this book so hard to read. Also, how these two seems to continuously make decisions that will only solidify an already thoroughly entrenched unhappiness . And yet, both in their own way are struggling to reach the surface, to catch some air. Ross pays such close attention to their psychologies, and it is all through the eyes of the wife (whose name is never given), so really it is layer upon layer of her psychology that we are given insight to. After 12 years of living with this man she knows him, right? She knows every avoiding glance, twitch of annoyance, shudder of disdain, etc. But he is also kind of unknowable to her, in how he has refused to share any of himself or his mind with her for the last decade or more. A lot of the reviews of this novel describe it as incredibly dull. I think the dullness and flatness of our protagonist's world is what Ross is trying to steep his reader in. In actual fact there is a lot that happens in this year's span, but her perspective is just so dang bleak. I also think it might be hard to identify with her struggles if you are young and the world is your oyster. Her predicament and her struggles are maybe more recognizable to people of an age where some doors have already closed behind them. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book when I was 20.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This book is classic CANLIT of the worst sort. We can all be grateful that this painful period in our history is past us. In the 1960's, the Canadian federal government decided that Canada needed its own culture and set out to create one. Publishing houses were subsidized. Universities were encouraged to teach Canadian Literature Courses now known as CANLIT. Grants were given to theatres that staged Canadian plays. In the spirit of the times, this gruesome and otherwise forgettable novel suddenly This book is classic CANLIT of the worst sort. We can all be grateful that this painful period in our history is past us. In the 1960's, the Canadian federal government decided that Canada needed its own culture and set out to create one. Publishing houses were subsidized. Universities were encouraged to teach Canadian Literature Courses now known as CANLIT. Grants were given to theatres that staged Canadian plays. In the spirit of the times, this gruesome and otherwise forgettable novel suddenly acquired a mission. It was put on high school courses throughout English speaking Canada because of the vigorous manner in which it attacked all the ills of our society: the mean spiritedness of small town anglophone canada, self-satisfied Protestant ministers and the general horror of living in a land with no culture. Being Catholic and French Speaking , I ought to have protested that WASP fellow citizens were being unjustly pilloried. Instead, I joined the chorus of sycophants who loudly praised it as a great pioneering effort in the formation of a national literature. The bizarre thing was that the CANLIT crusade actually worked as intended. The praise lavished on ghastly works like this one, inspired a new generation to produce vastly superior books. I think that Canadians today can take legitimate pride in our authors such as Margaret Attwood, Michael Ondaatje, Nicolas Dickner, Michel Tremblay, Yves Beauchemin Sandra Birdsell, Yann Martel, Roberston Davies, Mavis Gallant and many others. I am particularly happy that our first Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro was quite the opposite of Sinclair Ross, without being for one minute blind to the faults of small town English Canada, she has also brilliantly defended its good points. Read this book if you must. Then immediately pick up another collection of Alice Munro in order to get the bitter taste out of your mouth.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Yvonne Blackwood

    The title, As for me and my House, gives us a hint that there is something wrong in the home of the protagonist. Narrated in the first person, from Mrs. Bentley’s point of view, the novel is written like a diary and covers just over a one-year period. Pastor Philip Bentley and his wife move to Horizon, yet another small prairie town. He will become its new pastor. Mrs. Bentley hates the town, hates the people, hates the life, and is fed-up with her husband for not demanding his salary or even re The title, As for me and my House, gives us a hint that there is something wrong in the home of the protagonist. Narrated in the first person, from Mrs. Bentley’s point of view, the novel is written like a diary and covers just over a one-year period. Pastor Philip Bentley and his wife move to Horizon, yet another small prairie town. He will become its new pastor. Mrs. Bentley hates the town, hates the people, hates the life, and is fed-up with her husband for not demanding his salary or even requesting better living conditions, but more importantly for not leaving pastoring and focusing on art which is his skill. Childless, Mrs. Bentley feels that her husband’s coldness and aloofness toward her is because she cannot give him a son. She spends the entire time trying to read Mr. Bentley’s mind and hoping to win back his love. He is an artist, while she is a musician, but they are both not working in their fields. Both are frustrated. After an indiscretion, the Bentleys leave Horizon to start up a bookstore business. Readers are left to imagine what the outcome of the story will be. Will the Bentleys find happiness in a new town? The story provides us with vivid images of life on the prairies during the depression years. It also gives us insight into the behaviours of the English-speaking inhabitants at the time, and the role the Christian church played in their lives. The story is interesting, but I find the narrator to be unreliable. We only see things from her perspective, and since she spends so much time second-guessing every one else’s words and behaviours, the story is a slightly frustrating read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liv

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. If I ever hear one more reference to dust, walking down the train track, moths, or, heaven forbid, 'false fronts'... This was a mandatory read for my Canadian Lit class and let me tell you, I am glad to have Goodreads to get out my emotions after having just finished the novel. WOW. So horrible. I had to force myself into reading it. It was slow, no climax and you are stuck watching a cruel narrator - a woman with no name except Mrs. Bentley. My favourite line of hers came near the end: "I'm glad If I ever hear one more reference to dust, walking down the train track, moths, or, heaven forbid, 'false fronts'... This was a mandatory read for my Canadian Lit class and let me tell you, I am glad to have Goodreads to get out my emotions after having just finished the novel. WOW. So horrible. I had to force myself into reading it. It was slow, no climax and you are stuck watching a cruel narrator - a woman with no name except Mrs. Bentley. My favourite line of hers came near the end: "I'm glad she's gone - glad - for her sake as much as ours. What was there ahead of her now anyway?" This is after Judith DIES and Mrs. Bentley takes her baby. Honestly? First, that's pretty harsh, just a level up from when Steve left because she is so insecure about losing her husband. Also, your husband had an affair, the woman gets pregnant and you plot to adopt the child? Really? And just lucky for you she dies and you get to keep it. Wonderful. Also, another favourite: "...I keep thinking what an eventful year it has been..." Again, NOT EVENTFUL. There were so many times I wanted to throw this book down but, my book religion includes that I finish every book I ever pick up and start because judging it without fully reading it is a sin. Well, finished it and can now judge it. It's so disappointing, all of the Canadian literature I have read up till this point has been bland or just plain horrid (except Anne of Green Gables). It's sad that such a great country, my country, cannot excel in writing and creating memorable, classic novels.

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