As always, the fireworks were over too soon. The last star arced across the sky, the last lovely parabola of light faded, and the night was suddenly dark and cheerless. For a beat, we stood uncertainly, breathing in air wisped with smoke and pungent with bug spray. Then people began to fold blankets, collapse chairs, and say their goodbyes.
observations: Canada Day is July 1st, so this is set at the other end of the summer from the UK’s August Bank Holiday today, but still there is a fellow feeling.
I love the Gail Bowen books: they are crime stories featuring Joanne Kilbourn, who lives in Regina in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan (I was astonished to read that the population of the city is 180,000 – I’d assumed from these books that it was a bustling provincial metropolis like Calgary or Vancouver). For this entry, the 9th, she is spending the summer on a lake 70 kilometres away, and Bowen does a great job of creating the world of a summer community – in this case, a very upmarket spot where a group of wealthy successful lawyers has built an enclave. But all is not perfect, someone dies, and someone else is missing, so Joanne has to investigate.
This is more like a straight novel than a crime story, with its searching look at marriages, careers, and the loss of idealism: in some elements it resembles that classic 1980s film The Big Chill – not to mention the Don Henley song Boys of Summer (‘summer is for bad boys’ one character says). There is a marvellous atmosphere of regret and nostalgia, with the obvious metaphor of the summer being like life – ‘The lake was full of fish. The paint on the Muskoka chairs was crayon bright; the paddles, sticky with fresh varnish, were on their hooks in the boathouse; and the board games and croquet sets still had all their pieces…Anything was possible.’
It’s always soothing to be with Joanne, a really great character, like someone you know, telling you details of her life – there’s always plenty about what everyone ate and wore. She’s always going on about her children, again just like someone you know who finds her own offspring totally adorable and delightful, but doesn’t quite manage to put that over – hers always seem too good to be true, especially the artistically-talented adopted daughter Taylor.
The ending had me shouting out ‘no’ – it wasn’t shocking, in that there was a terrible inevitability about it, but I was greatly affected by it, and anyone who has read this series from the beginning would feel the same way I think.
The b/w photo is of a girl and a bear (!) at Henderson Lake in Alberta, from the Galt Museum and Archives.
The Canada Day fireworks picture is a Wikimedia Commons photo by Skeezix1000.