What a great book. I must admit that I'm not usually a fan of local authors because I find myself so focused on trying to figure out "where is this supposed to be", or "what could that refer to" that I easily loose the plot of the story! Not so with this book. Locations and references weren't hidden within descriptive text, they were right there - Bell St. was Bell St. - Sparks St. was Sparks St. and the High School of Commerce (where my mom attended) was here till 1990.
My mom lived on Cambridge St, and I remember her telling me stories of working downtown at "Mother Bell" and walking down Bronson to get across the train tracks (now the Queensway) to get to work. When I was reading the descriptions of the neighbourhoods I knew so well, I desperately wanted to read the story to my mom. I was hoping that I could spark a memory from somewhere underneath the smothering layers of dementia. Unfortunately, I couldn't reach her, but in reading the passages, I could just envision my mom and Frances crossing paths on the phone as Frances asked to be connected to some important long distance call, or on the street as they both went to work on a Monday morning.
Give it a read - Its a great story. You won't regret it.
I bought this novel directly from the author at the Glebe Garage Sale last Saturday. Apparently it took him 30 years to write this book so of course I had to buy it.
A lot of thoughts and ideas jumbled around in my head while reading the Underling. I am not sure if this book is to be part thriller and part story about the work ethic of the generation of teens who came of age during the Depression.
I read this book in a day and a half because it was pretty engrossing. I liked that it had a lot of dialogue because I like dialogue. I did not know too much about the Bank of Canada so I learned about bit about the history of the institution. It seems odd to think of a time when the banks issued their own currency.
Frances McFadden is a 1930s teen in Ottawa. She lost her sister to TB only a few months prior. Dad is absent and Mom works nights and pacifies her grief in a bottle of brandy. Money is tight but the McFaddens are not destitute. nged too much in 70+ years.
Frances is only six weeks away from completing grade 11 at the High School of Commerce (part of Glebe Collegiate back then) where she is enrolled in a secretarial program learning practical skills like shorthand, typing, and accounting. She is given an opportunity to interview for a job with the soon to be created Bank of Canada. Reluctant at first, she agrees to the interview. She is interviewed by a Department of Finance economist Dr Wilbur Grace. Frances impressed Dr. Grace at the interview and she is hired to set up a research agency for the new Bank of Canada. She sets up the agency using her smarts and can do attitude. She stumbles a few times but recovers and learns from these experiences. Frances is mature enough to run an office on her own, yet silly enough get drunk at the cottage and go skinny-dipping and to engage in philosophical conversations about penises.
By the end of the novel, in late August 1939, she is practically a spy smuggling gold out of Poland before the nazis can get their hands on it.
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