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Swamp Angel

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3.60  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Walking out on a demoralizing second marriage, Maggie Lloyd leaves Vancouver to work at a fishing lodge in the interior of British Columbia. But the serenity of Maggie’s new surroundings is soon disturbed by the irrational jealousy of the lodge-keeper’s wife. Restoring her own broken spirit, Maggie must also become a healer to others. In this, she is supported by her eccen ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st 1990 by New Canadian Library (first published 1954)
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3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  779 ratings  ·  73 reviews


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Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The night his wife Maggie up and left him, a man marches a few doors down to confront an old lady and her daughter, their neighbors in New Westminster, British Columbia. They are her friends: they must know where she went, why she left. He is stunned, irate, and talking wounded macho hooey. While he rants, the old woman suddenly begins to twirl and juggle a wee little pearl-handled revolver, named the Swamp Angel, in the air. Again and again and again. This most un-Canadian, most unwomanly of ge ...more
Sandy
This story was absolutely fascinating, right to the last page, but as I finished it, I still wondered what it was really about. The mystery about the Swamp Angel was never revealed. One could not be certain whether Vera would be alright. I even continued to wonder how well Maggie Lloyd understood herself and her own life (but I suppose that in itself is realistic - how many of us do understand ourselves and our lives?). I am tempted to re-read in the hope that I might catch some critical clues m ...more
Jason
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Something in this book really worked for me. I saw it on a display at the Library, and the word "Swamp" enticed me, then I saw it was set in Vancouver/BC and the author was born in South Africa.

The tone and gentle pacing worked for me, and the author's obvious love for the land of BC. And the interactions between people, hopelessly stuck in their own behaviour patterns, but trying to be better. I don't know. I'm not explaining it well. A cetain decency conveyed, but even it cannot solve all con
...more
Harperac
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada
Swamp Angel is usually spoken of as Ethel Wilson's best work. Not having yet read "Love and Salt Water" or Wilson's stories, I can't say for sure if I agree, but it definitely tops her previous work. It has a quality of linear movement, and the tension that sustains that movement, which was completely missing from her earlier work. However, it keeps parts of the kind of tableau-style narration that I loved so much in "Tuesday and Wednesday". It's not flawless, and there are parts that are dull, ...more
Don Mcvicar
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book some years ago and I have just finished rereading it. I think this is a wonderful novel. It has a deceptively simple plot, but needs careful attention to detail to reveal Wilson's astute observations on human relationships. I have lived in Kamloops for the past almost twenty years and Wilson's descriptions of the lakes and land in the area are great!
Cecile
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully constructed, intricate and real in it's characterizations. Not a book for those who like straight ahead story with predictable ends. This book was written by a woman who had lived most of her life and had a keen eye for observation. Her setting is dead-on!
Ariel (BookHermit)
"A first meeting. A meeting in the desert, a meeting at sea, meeting in the city, meeting at night, meeting at a grave, meeting in the sunshine beside the forest, beside water. Human being meet, yet the meetings are not the same. Meeting partakes in its very essence not only of the persons but of the place of meeting. And that essence of place remains, and colors, faintly, the association, perhaps forever."

A fine novel. I'm ashamed that I had never heard of Ethel Wilson until someone sent me thi
...more
Cheryl
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, canadian
Written in 1950s. A woman plans and then carries out her plan to leave her husband. Her 2nd husband, whom she married out confusion and grief. Her first was killed in the war, and her little daughter also died. She took on as her second husband a cocky brash man, a selfish man, mistaking his confident extroversion for assured comptetence. He turns out to be a self centred little mean-spirited and spiteful man. And so the book opens with Maggie carrying out her domestic chores for the final time, ...more
Sarena Nanua
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this one for class and it was great! 4.5*
Ian Gillies
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
My sister Nancy rated this book as "a gem" and I agree. It feels very Canadian in the tradition of Alice Munro or Mavis Gallant. Kind of quiet, no showy stretching for effects, leavened with a deep appreciation of place and mood. The characters are a bit quirky, again in the vein of quirky Canadian characters such as those you might meet in books by Leacock or Davies. The writing is also a bit quirky, using some odd sentence constructions and chapter segments. Something to savour is the descript ...more
Delia
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am so glad that Canada Reads inspired me to reread this book after a few decades. I loved this book. Wilson's description of the BC interior, and her sense of what it means to be a flyfisher are spot on, beautiful and obviously written by someone who knows both very well. In the afterword George Bowering says this book is simple & complex, like flyfishing; the idea is simple the method is complex.
Pamela
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(view spoiler) ...more
Nancy Croth
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
An engaging and beautifully written story about a woman who frees herself from the bondage of a bad marriage. Her refuge is a fishing lodge in remote BC where her experiences as a child have prepared her to shoulder the burdens of running a tourist camp. Her story is bolstered by those of the people who are and have been in her life, whose stories intertwine with hers yet create a space for her to stand strong.
Valdine Ciwko
Interesting characters, very strong women, Maggie and Mrs. Severance. Very strong description of British Columbia wilderness
Jocelyn
Sep 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Read for a class on British Columbian lit.

Not particularly fond of this novel, I'll admit. There are certain things about it that I do like, such as the awesomeness of our protagonist, Maggie, who decides she's had enough of her abusive second husband and splits on up to the BC interior; a decidedly heroic and brave thing to do in the 1950s for a woman. I liked that the other characters got their little backstories before they were even introduced into the timeline of Maggie's narrative. I also
...more
Tom Gray
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I first became aware of this book with a mention of it along with another novel in a forward another Canadian novel "The Tin Flute". This was a decades old old reprinting of Gabrielle Roy's novel and for some reason, I thought "Swamp Angel" along with the other novel would have faded in significance and be long forgotten and out of print. However, the name intrigued me and I saw that it was still in print and available on Amazon.

I am very glad that I took the trouble to follow up on this mentio
...more
Olivia Mainville
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Canadian novel is getting a little aged for the typical reader – 1954 – but it’s themes of establishing self-identity, esteem and strong friendships are still relevant today. This is one of those rare books that won’t exactly win you over when you read its description on the back, but its straight-forward language and inviting first scenes of a woman leaving her husband will keep you reading. I’m not typically a fan of reading long scenes that describe the Canadian landscape but this time I ...more
Bernadette
There wasn't much to like or dislike in this novel. Although given the impression that Wilson was trying to convey the message that love and marriage are never as perfect or clean-cut as one thinks, she failed to give even one example of a marriage that wasn't controlled by abuse, neglect, or general negative emotions. While she tried to convince me that Maggie's second husband, Edward Vardoe, was a terrible human being--and he did grow to be a little more despicable by the end--I couldn't help ...more
Cher Staite
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Every time something started to happen....it fizzled out..... and left the reader hanging. The "Swamp Angel" title was based on an object which appeared to be irrelevant to everything that didn't happen.

The actually 'writing' itself drove me crazy. A lot of sentences/thoughts appeared to come out of nowhere .... thoughts were left hanging and/or incomplete and also often off topic to what was currently happening.

Perhaps it wasn't meant to be a story that has a beginning and end....it was just
...more
Kevin
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit
A pregnant peep into the heart of British Columbian ethos, truly embodying that "last frontier" quality that its geography so demands. Sometimes it felt like I was being dipped into an Emily Carr painting with Ethel Wilson's Swamp Angel, and sometimes into an E. Pauline Johnson poem. Either way, a powerful push into a new, unfamiliar world that, once immersed in it, isn't really that new or unfamiliar at all.

Read on recommendation of CBC Books' 100 novels that make you proud to be Canadian.
Sherry Monger
Dec 26, 2015 rated it liked it

I look forward to hearing this novel discussed on Canada Reads as I feel that I did not take away everything there was to digest and contemplate. I initially thought I was really going to enjoy the story of Maggie who felt compelled to leave her husband on silent feet. As the pages went on, however, it felt like there were too many side stories bound up with Maggie's.
Maggie ends up in a little fishing camp near Kamloops vigorously protecting her history and her solitude only to have it interrupt
...more
Gerd Bjørhovde
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books ever, and I have read it, and taught it, several times. I think it appeals to me because it has several contradictory qualities (yes, that's the kind of person I am); poetry and drama, fascination with nature as well as practical knowledge of many kinds. The mystery that surrounds the story from the beginning and which is never quite revealed – why is Maggie running away from her husband, and why is it so important for her to keep it secret? – makes it possible t ...more
Ibis3
Liked this book about women trying to get on and get along. The characters were quite rich and descriptions of both city and back country were great. I kept expecting the Swamp Angel to fulfill its role as Checkov's gun (view spoiler) ...more
Nancy Gillies
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is a gem. I was interested in it at first because of the setting in British Columbia, but I was quickly drawn in by the plot's early suspense surrounding Maggie's escape from her boorish husband. It's true that there isn't much excitement after that part, but the descriptions of the rivers, forests and lakes of the interior were so compelling, and, overall, I found Maggie to be a really sympathetic character, with her steady determination to "swim past obstacles." I didn't really under ...more
Cindy
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a skillful and entertaining writer! I haven't read anything else by Ethel Wilson yet, but one day I will re-read "Swamp Angel". It's not too distracting, but sometimes I noticed I was reading words and words and words, then come to the full stop and realize I had read a beautifully composed sentence. And her insight! I thought perhaps I have been disguising my own bad behaviour...maybe people don't notice. But Ethel Wilson notices. I found "Swamp Angel" a short and very satisfying read.
Jane Mulkewich
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was written in 1954, and I was partway through it before I realized that I had read it before, I think many years ago (before I had as much life experience as I do now...) but the point is that it is memorable writing, and even if you forget some of the details of the plot or the storyline, you won't forget the images created in your mind. The bare bones of the story is that it is about a woman who leaves a husband to go and work at a fishing resort in British Columbia. And swamp angel ...more
Glen
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
The plot line about a woman who escapes an abusive marriage to work in a lake resort in the mountains of the Thompson River country near Kamloops, British Columbia is not all that compelling, but there are passages of startling psychological insight and some complex character developments which I liked. I also appreciated her ability to conjure forth the look and feel of both the sagebrush country of interior BC as well as the sub-alpine woods. A good read.
Stephanie
This is a beautiful piece of Canadian literature. I read some of Wilson's stories back in University in the early 80s, but missed this elegant novel. She evokes a sense of place so powerfully. (Vancouver, the road to Kamloops BC, then on further out to a fishing lodge on a small isolated lake outside Kamloops. Her characters are captivating and the action compelling. A hint of existentialism as a bonus.
Further bonus will be discussing the novel with Tom and Dan.
Jaime
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics, historical
Read this for my Literature of BC course.

I enjoyed reading about how the Lower Mainland and Interior were back in the old days but as for the story.......nothing really happens. All the exciting action happens at the beginning of the story. Maggie is strong, brave and stubborn...and yet chooses to stay in a place where she is being bullied by a stupid, weak, indecisive woman. Makes me mad for her.
Peter Bridgford
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book as part of some research I was doing about Canada in the 1950's. Although reading it did not provide me with the information I was searching for, the story had me intrigued and the writing style had me flipping pages. I was not fully expecting such a look at a feminine heroine in that era in Canada, but I am super glad that I read it. Swamp Angel is a short and little book, but there is this feeling that something much more meaty is being revealed while reading it.
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Ethel Davis Wilson was a Canadian writer of short stories and novels.

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, she moved to England in 1890 following the death of her mother. In 1898, after the death of her father, she was taken to live with her maternal grandmother in Vancouver, British Columbia. She received her teacher's certificate in 1907, and for thirteen years taught in Vancouver elementary sch
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“A first meeting. A meeting in the desert, a meeting at sea, meeting in the city, meeting at night, meeting at a grave, meeting in the sunshine beside the forest, beside water. Human beings meet, yet the meetings are not the same. Meeting partakes in its very essence not only of the persons but of the place of meeting. And that essence of place remains, and colours, faintly, the association, perhaps forever.
Ethel Wilson, Swamp Angel. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990 (page 95).”
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“There is a beautiful action. It has an operative grace. It is when one, seeing some uneasy sleeper cold and without a cover, goes away, finds and fetches a blanket, bends down, and covers the sleeper because the sleeper is a living being and is cold. He then returns to his work, forgetting he has performed this small act of compassion. He will receive neither praise nor thanks. It does not matter who the sleeper may be. That is a beautiful action which is divine and human in posture and intention and self-forgetfulness.” 0 likes
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