WINNER OF THE 2020 ROBERT KROETSCH CITY OF EDMONTON BOOK PRIZE
“Marina Endicott allows her characters to exist without being afraid of their (and our) moral dilemmas and failures, or the gap between our intentions and our understanding. She also writes about goodness so well—so beautifully and joyfully. . . . I feel as if I could close my eyes and still be at sea with these characters. A wonderful, brilliant book.” —Madeleine Thien, Giller Prize-winning author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing
The Difference is a breathtaking tour-de-force by one of Canada’s most celebrated authors, a writer with the astonishing ability to bring a past world to vivid life while revealing the moral complexity of our own. What is the difference between ourselves and other humans? Between human and animal? Where does that difference persist in our minds? These are the questions Marina Endicott explores in this sweeping novel set on the Morning Light, a ship from Nova Scotia sailing the South Pacific in 1912.
Thea and Kay are half-sisters, separated in age by more than a decade. After the death of their stern father, head of a residential school in western Canada, the elder sister, Thea, returns east for her long-awaited marriage to the captain of the ship. She cannot abandon her younger sister, so Kay joins her, and together they embark on fateful voyage around the world. Taking inspiration from the true story of a small boy who was brought on board a Canadian sailing ship in the South Seas, Endicott shows us a vanished world in all its wildness and wonder, and its darkness, prejudice, and difficulty too.
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In this witty and colourfully peopled novel, Caroline Adderson effortlessly plunges the reader into a nineteenth-century Russian tragicomedy. Aspiring painter Masha C. is blindly devoted to Antosha, her famous writer-brother. Through the years Antosha takes up with numerous women from Masha’s circle of friends, yet none of these relationships threaten the siblings’ close ties until the winter he falls into a depression. Then Masha invites into their Moscow home a young woman who teaches with her—the beautiful, vivacious and deeply vulnerable Lika Mizanova—with the express hope she might help Antosha recover.
The appearance of Lika sets off a convolution of unrequited love, jealousy and scandal that lasts for seven years. If the famously unattainable writer has lost his heart to Lika as everyone claims, why does he undertake a life-threatening voyage to Sakhalin Island? And what will happen to Masha if she is demoted from “woman of the house” to “spinster sister”? While Antosha and Lika push and pull, Masha falls in love herself—with a man and with a mongoose—only to have her dreams crushed twice. From her own heartbreak Masha comes to recognize the harm that she has done to her friends by encouraging their involvement with Antosha, but it is too late for Lika, who will both sacrifice herself for love and be immortalized as the model for Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull.
A Russian Sister offers a clever commentary on the role of women as prey for male needs and inspiration, a role they continue to play today. At the same time the novel is a plea for sisterhood, both familial and friendly. Chekhov’s The Seagull changed the theatre. A Russian Sister gives the reader a glimpse behind the curtain to the fascinating real-life people who inspired it and the tragedy that followed its premiere.
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