The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood (Illustrated by Charles Pachter)

The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood was published in 1970. This is an example of one of the collections that Margaret Atwood and long time friend, Charles Pachter collaborated on.

Susanna Moodie was someone who immigrated to Canada from England in 1832. She called herself one of the first pioneers of Canada which has caused some tension since we are all settlers here. Susanna was a writer and found life in the bush of Northern Ontario difficult. She wrote two biographical books about her experience in this new environment.

Margaret Atwood found Susanna's two novels to be disappointing. She had a dream of Susanna Moodie. In the dream she had written a play for her. Susanna Moodie began to haunt her and Atwood began these poems as a meditation on Susanna’s life, on nature’s relationship with animals and humans and on human dislocation.

Margaret has a few things in common with Susanna. Margaret grew up in the bush, was also drawn to literature, but from what I can tell Margaret enjoyed being in nature and this wasn’t seen as a hardship for her so I think Susanna’s story would be appealing to her. Margaret would be able to fill in the holes that Susanna couldn’t put words to in a way that no one else could.

The Journals of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood is divided into three parts. Journal I is from 1832 - 1840. This is the time period of the Moodies’ arrival in Canada to their departure from the bush for Belleville. Journal II is from 1840 -1871 which is their years in Belleville and Journal III is from 1871 - 1969 is Susanna’s old age, death and beyond. In Atwood’s poems, Susanna comes to the present (just before these poems were published) making an appearance on a Toronto Bus - she becomes the spirit of the land she once hated.

Atwood's poems show almost a split personality of who Susanna was, her relationship with nature, struggles she had, and warnings to us as Canadians. I like that Atwood gives Susanna a voice from the grave.

The illustrations by artist Charles Pachter, are vivid, bold, and colourful. This poetry collection and collaboration is an interesting piece of Canadian literary history because of Margaret and Charles' collaboration but also because of the subject matter.

Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛🐛

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