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484 LEITERS IN CANADA 1997 for by Moodie's persistent efforts to please her readers and thereby ensure a much-needed income. Her letters to Richard Bentley, her English publisher, her avid reading ofcontemporary periodicals and whatever new literature she could lay her hands on, as well as her inquiries of her editing and writing sisters in England, Eliza and Agnes Strickland, all attest to Susanna's anxiety to keep up with what the public wanted, to produce writing that was market-driven. Surely the inconsistencies of the protagonist of Roughing It in the Bush are a series of attempts to construct a heroine for all tastes, underlined as they usually are by humour and self-deprecation that suggest Moodie was very much in control of her intentions. In his concluding chapter, Thurston suggests that 'in the mid 185os she [essentially] ceased to write for publication' despite the evidence of her correspondence with Richard Bentley during the 186os and his publication of her last novel, The World before Them, in 1867. By the late 186os Moodie realized she could no longer sustain the strategy of agility in response to a fickle public from which she was becoming more and more isolated as she aged.ln October 186g her husband died. The closeness of their relationship is often underestimated. They had been introduced as fellow writers in 1830 in London, and John Moodie clearly supported Susanna's literary endeavours throughout his life. With his death, she lost the daily sustenance of his intellectual companionship and encouragement. She ceased writing for these reasons, rather than, as Thurston contends, a sense of the failure of her writing to reconstruct her own identity. (ELIZABI:.!H HOPKINS) Michael Peterman. This Grent Epoch of Our Lives: Suslinlla Moodie's 'Roughing It In the Bush' Canadian Fiction Studies J} ECW Press 1996. 114. $14.95 The ability to write on complex academic subjects for a general audience is an underappreciated skill in our profession. The process of distilling complex issues into transparent and elegant paragraphs tends to conceaL rather than reveat the extraordinary amount of wqrk involved. This Great Epoch ofOur Lives, Michael Peterman's introduction to Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in The Bush, is an admirable example of an accomplished scholar writing for a wide audience. Combining meticulous research with readable and intelligent prose, this book is a valuable reference for scholars and a useful introduction to Moodie's work for teachers and students. This Great Epoclz of Our Lives offers a chronology of Moodie's life and works, an assessment of the text's importance and a consideration of its critical receptionJ which, together with the Works Cited section, summarize the biographical and critical context of the work. The remainder of the book is an extensive 'Reading of the Text' in which Peterman notes that 'for all HUMANITIES 485 the critical attention it has received, Roughing It has seldom been given a close, detailed reading.' He proposes to read 'from sketch to sketch, and from volume to volume' noting the development of themes, the meandering shape of the narrative, and the relationship of the characters and anecdotes to the facts of Moodie's life. Peterman is at pains to counter the image of a weepy and divided Moodie that dominated criticism in the 1970s and early 198os. Moodie did not retreat from the bush overwhelmed by fear of the wilderness or, even worse, of her lower-class neighbours; rather, 'what overwhelmed her were economics and circumstance.' Peterman emphasizes Moodie's 'adaptation' to the circumstances of her homes in Hamilton Township and Douro: despite her initial helplessness in performing household tasks, Moodie became renowned for her home-made bread and learned to paddle a canoe, an accomplishment no other middle-class woman author of the period recounts. Yet Roughing ll details how adaptation was not enough/ and the Moodies were defeated by disastrous harvests, economic depression, and repeated illness. Moodie's appreciation of the beauty of the wilderness seen from a canoe sits side by side with her poverty, isolation, and failure, creating the energy of contradiction that attracts readers to the book. Peterman draws attention to Moodie's 'irrepressible side, which was fascinated with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 484-485
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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