From My Bookshelf: Featuring Armin Wiebe and Keith Ross Leckie


By Lynn Willoughby

Tatsea ~ Armin Wiebe

The world is a dangerous and terrifying place in the 1700s, and even more so when you live in Canada’s arctic. The Dogrib people are under constant attack – for food, for furs, for women. And they were no match for the raiders already trading with Europeans. They had the advantage and had guns.

This is “…rich in Aboriginal history and culture…” – Deborah Froese. It is a love story inside an adventure story. The main character Ikotsali must try and save his wife from raiders who have stolen her. But his first priority is to save their tiny baby. How he manages his life with an infant is truly ingenious.

Wiebe draws on his time spent teaching in the Northwest Territories and living with the Dogrib people. This novel won the Margaret Lawrence Award for Fiction and is a real departure from his usual comedic style.

It is a history lesson of what life might have been like 250 years ago for the many native tribes as white men began to clash with them over customs and rights in the Canadian north.

  • The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz
  • Murder in Gutenthal

………….and several others

Coppermine ~ Keith Ross Leckie

“For a nation as enormous, wild and relatively unpeopled as Canada, we write remarkably few adventure stories.” – Andrew Pyper

This is a wonderful read and a welcome history lesson. Leckie’s “Coppermine” comes portaging into the world of snow and cold and evolves into a wonderful story based on true events.

In 1917 the first juried criminal trial of Inuit in Canada was a media sensation. The crime?? Two priests went into the Coppermine region in the extreme northern part of the North West Territories. They were never heard from again. So four years later one lone NWMP leaves Edmonton to solve the mystery and/or bring the murderers to justice. This territory is completely unknown to him, it covers thousands of square miles. But he does find the bodies of the priests and is directed to the two men who murdered them.

He arrests the two Inuit, apprehends them and returns to Edmonton with them and an interpreter. All of this takes more than a year, and the four of them must survive the arctic winter. They build an igloo and spend two months of darkness and cold on very little food.

This a a great historical account of the territory, the Inuit culture – the people, their superstitions and ethics, their survival skills. This epic adventure also highlights the NWMP creed and a complicated justice system in early Canada.

There is also the back story of the first world war – what is the Mountie hiding? What is happening in Europe?
I really enjoyed the second half of this book where the two accused are finally on trial in Edmonton. Because the murderers believed they were justified in killing the priests, and because they have no idea of the Canadian legal system, they happily confess to the murders. It is now that we finally have many questions answered – why did they behead and cannibalize the priests?

“Coppermine” gets it right – an adventure story with lots of suspense, history, cultures clashing and the potential craziness and ambiguity of who is the “bad guy”. Can you tell, I LOVED this book, and like the Coppermine River, it is filled with twists and turns.

  • Hannibal
  • Scipio

…………and others

Who Knew?

In Canada, a person has the right to a jury trial for all crimes punishable by five years imprisonment or more. This jury, by constitutional law, must be made up of peers of the accused.