About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reflections on Patricia Blondal and A Candle to Light the Sun

I knew before starting to read A Candle to Light the Sun that the author, Patricia Blondal, had died of cancer a short time after learning the book would be published. As I read and loved the book thoughts of her death were never far away. There was a poignancy to the loss of such a great talent so young that made the reading an emotional experience. 

It felt an especially cruel irony to read that her husband, Harold Blondal, was a doctor specializing in cancer treatment.
Learning she spent three months apart from her family, while dying, to write the book left me wondering what I would do were I faced with a prognosis of but a few months to live. 
Her heart was clearly poured into the book. In an introduction to my edition of the book Patricia Demers quoted from a comment Blondal made to a reporter about her characters: 
“I sometimes lie in bed at night and hear them talking, see them walking and reacting, laughing and crying. After getting to know them so intimately it’s easy. They handle the plot.”
My favourite Saskatchewan novel is Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell. As with A Candle to Light the Sun it involves a boy growing up on the prairie in the desperate 1930’s. In both books the wind is a constant companion.
In A Candle to Light the Sun:
She had gone half a block before she realized how tired she was, how terribly tired, how strong the wind. Her eyes were full of dirt, the streets long gray cocoons of winding wind and soil, all the houses shut tight against the unnatural dark …… The two boys were wild with the torrent of the wind, filled with the immense surge of it as they ran along the rim of the valley. Below them, as if they were looking through smoked glass, they could see the long grass bending under the weight of the wind and far off the oaks plunging together in its fury.
Among those inspired by Blondal was Benjamin Herson, a rabbi in Malibu, California, who grew up in Manitoba. Herson had a vivid memory of seeing the beautiful Blondal in a hallway during university. In a Globe & Mail article in 2002 he said:
"There was a deep and electrifying communion, a wonderful magic moment of enchantment," he recalls. "I fell in love with that woman pure and simple and here I was the son of a rabbi, studying in a college sponsored by the United Church."
Shortly after Herson was diagnosed with tuberculosis and never saw Blondal again.
Almost 40 years later a student gave him a copy of A Candle to Light the Sun. Up to that moment he had not known she had written a book and died so young. He connected deeply with the book and wanted to honour her memory:
That question brought Herson back to Manitoba where he and Blondal had grown up in separate worlds. He bought a simple farmhouse outside Gimli, Man., a 10-minute walk from the shores of Lake Winnipeg, and in 2001 he worked with the Manitoba Writers Guild to inaugurate it as the Patricia Blondal Memorial Writers' Retreat. It contains Blondal's two posthumously published books, photos, a poem and a display about her, a modern kitchen, woodstove and guest rooms. Three established Manitoba writers have already sat down at its expansive desk for a quiet month each of wordsmithing.
And to think Herson fell in love with Blondal and felt this deep connection despite never having spoken to her. 
Blondal’s final words in A Candle to Light the Sun will remain long in my memory:
      Roselee put her arms around him, for it was time to mourn and mourning in
      Mouse Bluffs must be done in private, spoken gently against the tender green
      of the valley, lest the wind, hearing, should tear it to tatters against the great
Blondal, Patricia - (2016) - A Candle to Light the Sun and Patricia Blondal


  1. That is a memorable ending, Bill. And the story behind the novel is indeed poignant and powerful. It seems to put so many things in perspective, I think. And it does make you wonder what you might do under similar circustances.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. My problems seem alittle smaller when I think of Blondal.

  2. That sounds like a most impressive book, and what stories about the author - I have been fascinated by all your posts on the book. it is not, I think, well known in the UK, but I must try to find it.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I acknowledge I had not heard of it until finding it in a bookstore earlier this year. I would love to hear your comments on the book.