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Elizabeth Kouhi.
Illustrations by Jeanette Lightwood.

Winnipeg, Queenston House, c1983.
144pp, cloth, $10.95 (cloth), $6.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-919866-87-5 (cloth), 0-919866-88-3 (paper).

Grades 5-8.
Reviewed by Robert W. Bruinsma.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Elizabeth Kouhi has written a historical novel that is reminiscent of the "domestic" fiction of the earlier part of this century and yet also contemporary in dealing with a feminist theme.

Sarah Jane McKay is a thirteen-year-old who, in 1870, moves with her family from Montreal to the desolate mining town of Silver Islet located at the end of the Sibley Peninsula jutting into northern Lake Superior. Although we learn a little about the town and the geography of this part of Canada, the novel is much more concerned with the interior landscape of Sarah Jane's mind. To put it simply, Sarah Jane is a budding intellectual in a decidedly anti-intellectual and socially conservative milieu. While most girls her age are beginning to stock their hope chests and dream about the boy who will win their box at the box social, Sarah Jane is reading great literature and preparing for examinations that will get her into high school and (is it possible?) eventually university.

The novel deals effectively with peer pressure in the local school, especially with the viciousness of the cliques that form the subculture of adolescent girls. We also get a glimpse of the social structure and life of a pioneer community, yet, except for the death of Sarah Jane's younger sister, the social ambience of the novel strikes me as far more benign and genteel than one might expect of a harsh, frontier mining community. But then, these are minor aspects of a book that deals centrally with a young girl's struggle to define herself as other than a potential wife and mother.

This novel will appeal to girls with quiet, introspective dispositions who do not require rapid pacing and exciting action to keep them reading, girls who are, in fact, a lot like Sarah Jane.

Robert W. Bruinsma, King's College, Edmonton, AB.
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