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Sisters In The Wilderness: The Lives Of Susanna Moodie And Catharine Parr Traill

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  355 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
In the inhospitable and hardscrabble bush of Canada, facing a pioneering existence that they never even knew existed, the well-educated, but modestly married, British born Strickland sisters, Susanna and Catharine, turned to the pen to ease their loneliness and isolation. Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It in the Bush warned her countrymen from taking the bait and emigrating to ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by Penguin Canada (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 794)
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Jun 14, 2014 Petra rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book. The early days of Canada, experienced by two sisters ill equipped for such an adventure, were brutal and beautiful at once. The sisters saw a Canada that none of us can even imagine: pristine forests, wild flora, a wildness & goodness that is long lost. It was extremely interesting to read their descriptions & thoughts of such places and comparing that with the image of cottage country area of Ontario today.
The two sisters came to Canada with their two husban
Jun 06, 2016 Evelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lent to me by a friend who was not able to finish, this biography sat on my bedside table a month before I cracked it open. But once I started, I was swept up into the lives of Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Trail. Both women were familiar to me as pioneer Canadian authors, but I knew nothing about their personal lives. This biography of these two sisters drew heavily on their own writings, both published works and letters. I was saddened to learn about their trials and tribulations, and the ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Maryan rated it it was amazing
I read this book in preparation for reading Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie an account of her 7 years as a settler in Canada (1832-1839). It was time so well spent that I want to read more by Charlotte Gray. She is a master at presenting the focus of her interest, in this case Susanna Moodie and her sister Catherine Parr Traill within a historical and social context. The different characters of the sisters, their motivations, and their challenges both in England and in Upper Canada wer ...more
Jan 13, 2008 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: canlit, biography
I've had this on my stack for over two years now. It was one of our very
first selections for CanLitReaders, and I had trouble getting hold of it.
By the time the bookstore got it in, the discussion was over, and I just
never got around to reading it before now. This is a biography of two
sisters who came to Canada from England in the early 19th century, settling
with their husbands and families in the areas around what is now Toronto and
Peterborough. Engrossing depiction of colonial struggles and th
Dec 13, 2010 Deb rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have an interest in local history and really enjoyed reading this book. The author provides much information about the physical, financial, and social hardships facing the sisters as they adjusted to life in the backwoods of Canada, as well as information about their attempts to publish literature here and in England. I usually presumed that people who made the choice to move to Canada in the early to mid 1800s had a very good reason for doing so, and consequently didn't likely regret their de ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the tale of two sisters from my part of the world, Suffolk in England, Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill, who travelled to the remote Canadian backwoods and lived a backbreaking life there - yet both became famous authors by writing about their experiences. I found this a fascinating and very readable account, good to read alongside the sisters' own reminiscences. The whole family is very interesting, as several other siblings were also writers, including another sister, Agnes Str ...more
Selaine Henriksen
Dec 02, 2014 Selaine Henriksen rated it liked it
It has taken me a while to find how I want to review this book. On the one hand it is a heart-breaking story of pioneer suffering and courage, on the other it is an almost modern tale of women with literary ambitions and their trials and tribulations within the publishing world. Both sisters needed money. They did what they knew best - write - but even then publishers took advantage and, while they made money, the sisters earned pennies.

Part of why Susanna's story, in particular, I find hard to
As I read this, I became increasingly aware of how little I know about the history of Canada. Pretty much everything in the story was new to me. I suspect that someone with more background knowledge about the politicians and settlement of Canada could better appreciate all of the time that went into researching this book. Maybe I should give it 4-stars.

The Prelude begins:
"Feb 1834: Tall, dense pine trees loomed over the Moodies, blocking any glimpse of the night sky, as they wearily clambered do
Nov 09, 2015 Debbie rated it really liked it
Really interesting read. Great reminder of what the early settlers faced and how unprepared most of them were. Also, we think politics is corrupt now, boy we have nothing on the early government of our country and cities!
Feb 22, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
Quite a compelling read. I found it impossible not to be filled with admiration for these two sisters' (Catherine Parr Trail and Susanna Moodie) endurance and strength. The English sisters (most especially Agnes) appeared equally formidable but in entirely different ways-- rigid maintainers and enforcers of a class system rather than performers of endless physical endeavors. How these new Canadians ever found the time to write as prodigiously as they did is a mystery. Check out the lifespans and ...more
Elaine Weeks
Aug 11, 2016 Elaine Weeks rated it it was amazing
What these sisters had to deal with and overcome in order to write is awe inspiring and humbling. A fabulous book about two incredible women that I would recommend to anyone - especially aspiring writers. You'll never say "you don't have time to write again"!
Tracy Ward
Aug 26, 2016 Tracy Ward rated it it was amazing
An intriguing telling of two of Canada's earliest authors of note. I love how Ms. Gray intertwines the lives of these two sisters taking the reader along for an impressive, spell binding journey. And I relished the little tidbits of information regarding relating topics which do not detract from the main topic but rather enhances the overall understanding of the time period. I am interested in reading more about these two women and the challenges they faced as early pioneers in the Canadian colo ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Sep 20, 2015 Kris - My Novelesque Life rated it really liked it
Written by Charlotte Gray
2000, 400 Pages
Genres: canadian, history, biography

If you have attended a Canadian school you would have heard of Susanna Moodie, even if you don't remember now. You may not know much about Moodie but Roughing it in the Bush is probably a title you have at least heard of. I remember both book and author mentioned in a few of my History and English courses. It is supposed to be a C
Jenny Brown
May 24, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it really liked it
This book describes the lives of two sisters born into Jane Austen's world of gentility who marry feckless men who take them to the Canadian frontier where they are unable to succeed because their upper middle class upbringings have unsuited them to the challenges of pioneering. The sisters both wrote books that are now honored as accounts of women's life on the Canadian frontier, but they were ripped off by all their publishers earning almost nothing for books some of which went through ten edi ...more
I loved every minute of this biography of two genteel English sisters, raised in Suffolk in the early 1800's, who decide to emigrate to Canada in search of a better life. Had they known the hardship that the next fifty years were to bring, I doubt they would ever have left Suffolk. What an insight into early Canadian life. Charlotte Gray has done a fabulous job of making these two women, and their lives two hundred years ago, both accessible and fascinating.
Dec 13, 2015 Cathy rated it really liked it
Excellent! I wouldn't have chosen this book, but our book club read it so I had to. I never read biographies, generally, but I really enjoyed it. It was quite readable, to my surprise, and I learned a lot about Canada in the early years, and more specifically about the landscape and challenges of the Peterborough/Belleville area.
Eric Wright
Oct 24, 2015 Eric Wright rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, biography, history
After extensive research, Charlotte Gray has given us a very well written and generally interesting book about two of Ontario's pioneering women. The book takes us back to the mid-1800's when Ontario was largely forest and gives us an interesting picture of Belleville, Cobourg, and Peterborough. It leaves the reader astounded at the ability of these two women to survive multiplied challenges including very ill-prepared husbands while continuing their literary careers. My only criticism was that ...more
I found this to be quite a tough slog to make it through. The subject matter should have been interesting, yet somehow this book was not. This one fits in the same area of my virtual bookcase as does "The Sentimentalists".
Nov 01, 2014 Dsinglet rated it really liked it
Well written non fiction account of Susanna Moody and Catherine Parr Trail and their lives from poor aristocrats in England to pioneers in the wilderness of Canada. The book puts them in prospective in their importance to literary development of the colony and also details the struggles of their personal lives.
Nov 16, 2013 Karin rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting look at 19th century relationships - marriages, families, and society in general. I appreciated the comparison between Catherine and Susanna's lives and the lives of their family still in England. The move to Canada and life of immigrants was interesting to me because it seems so recent. My family's Canadian experience began the century prior to the Strickland sisters, so the notion that life was so rough in the mid-1800s makes me wonder about my own family's arrival ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Rosalie rated it it was amazing
I read this 8 years or so ago, and I still think about it. Not an easy read, but SO interesting!
Dec 23, 2014 S.M. rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorite books.
Trail and Moodie, pioneers of Canada's backwoods, were also pioneers of Canadian literature. What is most tragic is their struggle to publish their works and be given proper payment for them. These sisters have indomitable spirits. Gray does justice to their importance as literary figures and also as people who suffered all the hardships of early settlers to Canada. An important book that is written with the captivating voice of a fiction writer, but with all the research and dates of biography. ...more
Dec 29, 2010 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting view into the lives of two early Canadian writers. Like the diaries of L.M. Montgomery they really do nothing to encourage trust in book publishers as they were cheated or treated unfairly by publishers in three countries. It is also shocking to imagine just surviving the trials they faced let alone publishing one's last book at 80 some years!

The writing style of Charlotte Gray made for pleasant reading.
Feb 28, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
A very enjoyable read about the early pioneer days in what is now Ontario, Canada. Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill were two early writers who chronicled the Canadian emigrant experience. Apparently well known in Canada I had not heard of them. These women when through an incredibly rough time and continued to be driven to write both in the hope of earning some money and out of the in-born desire to communicate.

Jennifer Labelle
May 05, 2016 Jennifer Labelle rated it liked it
A bit dry, but interesting because I'm familiar with/ live near one of the main settings in the book. I'm looking forward to reading Roughing it in the Bush now.
Mar 03, 2009 Desiree rated it really liked it
This was another book from our Bookclub list. It started off a little painfully - lots of historical references and details - and I wanted to get on with the story. Soon I was hooked and I finished the book in 3 days. It was a fascinating glimpse into the settlers and pioneers of Upper Canada in the 1840's and up to the late 1800's based on the writings from 2 English sisters who were just such pioneers.
Jan 20, 2012 Peggy rated it really liked it
The biography of two sisters who were both pioneers and authors in 1800s Ontario: Susanna Moodie who wrote Roughing it in the Bush and Catherine Parr Traill who wrote The Backwoods of Canada. A fascinating account of what it was like to homestead in the 1830s (very difficult!) Both sisters were dogged by poverty their entire lives, but lived to see life get easier and less labour-intensive.
Jan 17, 2011 Bastou rated it liked it
I liked to read about the life of the pioneers in the area where I live. These two families, or should I say two women struggling for the survival of their children and husbands in the worst of adversity.
I would recommend it to anyone wanting to find out more about what life in Ontario was like in the 19th century, and interested in the birth of literature in Canada.
Jul 03, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
This was wonderfully written, brought the trials of both 1800s immigration (from England) and pioneer days in Upper Canada to life. A celebration of two strong women. Love that it recalls the canoe trip that sheltered overnight at the point that is four doors down from our cottage and paddled along the same route we take on Stoney Lake!
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Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known writers, and author of eight acclaimed books of literary non-fiction. Born in Sheffield, England, and educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, she began her writing career in England as a magazine editor and newspaper columnist. After coming to Canada in 1979, she worked as a political commentator, book reviewer and magazine col ...more
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