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A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects
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A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  61 reviews
National Bestseller

From one of our nation’s most beloved and iconic authors comes a lyrical 150th birthday gift to Canada. Jane Urquhart chooses 50 Canadian objects and weaves a rich and surprising narrative that speaks to our collective experience as a nation.

Each object is beautifully illustrated by the noted artist Scott McKowen, with Jane Urquhart conjuring and distill
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Patrick Crean Editions
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  227 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it

I liked the idea of understanding Canada through 50 objects. I had very high expectations from this book. My problem was I found it very biased towards her own background. Many of the objects are very Canadian, but they were told so much through her own eye and history that I found it hard to expand. An example is with the canoe. All Canadians know why the canoe is important to Canada, and is a symbol of Canada, but she spoke so much about her grandfather that it seemed as though she missed
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book consists of a series of short stories, about things of significance to Canadians. The story about Lady Macdonald is well worth reading---even if you don't read anything else in the book. It is hard to believe what she did. She is an amazing woman! You will have to read the story to find out what happened.
❀ Susan G
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads

After reading Away, I was thrilled to receive an advanced reader copy of A Number of Things: Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects by Jane Urquhart. This literary celebration of Canadian history will be released in time to honour Canada’s 150th birthday! Urquhart’s narrative is combined with detailed illustrations drawn by Scott McKowen who also contributed by providing his own suggestions for the 50 things.

An overall theme of gratitude and apprecia
I realize that this book isn't for everyone: it is presented as an overview of 50 items that represent Canada, but really it is more like 50 things that represent Jane Urquhart's Canadian experience. Luckily for me, the things that are important to her seem to overlap significantly with my own experience.
This wasn't quite what I expected when I picked it up, as I thought that it was a book of short stories inspired by items. But what it actually is is so much better: non-fiction vignettes spice
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a complete pleasure. Award-winning author Jane Urquhart explores Canada's diversity and history with reference to fifty objects. In the course of it she also describes something of her own family's history, which lends an intimacy and casual tone that might otherwise have made this a somewhat dry tome.

Each description is relatively short, so they are quick to read. Urquhart's prose is lovely -- so clear and fresh.

But the most amazing part of the book is the illustrations by Scott Mc
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a delightful book. Tiny vignettes about varied objects that are each uniquely integral to Canada's history give the reader a different perspective on what is important to individual views of that history. It left me feeling I could add to her collection with stories of objects belonging to my grandparents who were among the Scottish and British immigrants to Canada in the early twentieth century. They (the objects) are my personal connection to the builders of this great country.. I rec ...more
Janet Hutchinson
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a great little read. Each chapter highlighted an object, big or little, that is deemed to be important to Canada's history. Did you know that Sir John A. MacDonald’s wife, Lady Susan Agnes, rode a cow-catcher through the Rocky Mountains? I never knew that. Skates dance halls, wooden snowmen are all highlighted here. This is an easy read, and quick.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I defy any Canuck not to feel choked-up after reading each one of these superbly crafted short musings on the Canadian identity.

Sentimental most of the time, but never too hokey, there is some lovely character searching going on in these pages.

Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disappointing to say the least, this collection of essays doesn't reflect all of Canada that is purported to do from the statement on the cover. Once again everything in Canada is related to Ontario. Oh, except for the chapter oon rope, which is about the hanging of Riel.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. In these fifty stories of fifty objects Urquhart presents little treasures of Canada. So moving, inspirational, known and unknown. Powerful and simple. The illustrations by Scott McKowen deepen the stories of Canada past, present, and looking towards the future. Brilliant.

(view spoiler)
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Urquhart was asked to write about 50 objects, in honour of Canada's 150th birthday. With chapters with titles such as "hat", "books", "horse", and "lighthouse", you don't really know what to expect, but the short stories/vignettes are written kind of like those Canadian Heritage moments we used to see on TV, with some more personal stories thrown in by the author to celebrate her own background. The book touches upon our major cultural icons - Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, Stompin' Tom, etc. - ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, non-fiction
This book contains a list of 50 objects, complete with description, history, significance, and why it relates to Canada as a whole. I was initially concerned that 50 objects would be a marathon, yet somehow this book absolutely engaged me as a reader.

There is such a fascinating variety of objects here and I never knew what was coming next. The book brought a smile to my face when I recognized an object and instilled a curiosity when I didn’t. While some of the items deeply resonated with me – Si
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-authors
Thanks Lisa for the gift of this book and for sharing our love of Jane Urquhart's work. What a great read for Canada's 150th anniversary! I loved the choice of objects and the illustrations for each - really love the illustrations! Love the Canada goose on the cover!!!

I learned so much reading this book. Really love the modelling Jane Urquhart does in researching and valuing her own family historical threads in Canada and how deep the roots of the objects and the stories that surround them take
Kristine Morris
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian
I liked the idea of celebrating Canada's 150th year by reading a book of Canadian stories told through 50 objects. Jane Urquhart is 67 years old, comes from a family of Irish-Canadian farmers based in Ontario. I'm 47 years old, have lived a mostly suburban/urban life, but come from a family of farmers in Manitoba. So, I was not at all surprised that I associated very easily with each of the objects Urquhart chose. Although, I did not know about the snowman in Beardmore! Most of the stories are a ...more
Marion Reidel
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a great concept, fifty objects around which a narrative is written to animate some aspect of Canadian history. For the most part the object were intriguing; loved the Staffordshire dogs, Brock's hat, the grave and black rock. Some other "objects" were a stretch; mountain spirits and Old Walt. The research was well done. Who knew about Lawren Harris's ancestry or the plight of the Irish immigrants to Montreal. There are some very important lessons here are valuing diversity, environmental ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-2017-library
An interesting collection of fifty items and anecdotes designed to represent different aspects of Canada. There were some genuinely fascinating stories although I'm not sure they were things the majority of Canadians would have chosen, and it did feel as if Quebec/French Canadians were somewhat underrepresented. What really bothered me, though, was the superior tone of the book. In an attempt to make things easier to relate to, I'm guessing, Urquhart included many personal references. Sometimes ...more
Katherine Pederson
I really wanted to dive into this book and devour it, being a proud Canadian and all...I found it wasn't a book to be read all in one sitting, so I had it beside my bed in hopes of reading and enjoying a few of the stories in small batches. Well, I have had it for 15 weeks and it needs to go back to the library, as unread as it was 12 weeks ago. I found the few stories I did read to be rather dry and not engaging enough for me. I have put it my "try again" list, but at this point it's for patrio ...more
Laura HP
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-history
This is an easy, enjoyable read. I liked the variety of objects covered - some of them were very familiar, like the canoe, and some were new to me, like the Innu tea dolls. The author frequently ties the object's stories back to her family, who have a long history in Canada. I see what she was going for, tying the broader stories to a more personal touch, but sometimes it detracted a bit from the "national project" feel of the rest of the book. That's a small complaint though - overall a fun rea ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, and I thought it was a wonderful choice for our online book club to read in celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. I thought it represented a wide cross-section of Canadian history, recognized the importance of First Nations people, and I honestly didn't mind that Urquhart framed a lot of it based on her own experiences. I thought that made for a more intimate read and lent itself to the reader considering what their object choices might be based ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It is very much a personal choice driven book. Infact some essays seemed as if they are just written to talk about her own family members and ancestors. However, I still very much enjoyed reading this book, and learnt several things about different aspects of life in Canada. The best part for me was that her stories were quite diverse and inclusive. I think this would not have worked if she decided to be impersonal in her choice of objects.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
For anyone who thinks Canadian history is dull or a bit too much to bite into, this is the perfect way to access it. Jane Urquhart discusses various parts of Canadian history through Canadian objects. Each object is given a few pages in which she discusses its significance to Canada, either for Urquhart herself, or for Canada as a whole. It is the type of book you read, only to want to know more about what it has discussed.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Stories of Canada told through 50 objects for Canada's 150 birthday. Objects like Indian legging, Massey Harris tractor, glass dogs that belonged to Lucy Maud Montgomery which seemed just a path to give a quick look at her life, a look at Lester B Pearson's life using the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded in 1957; Acadian oysters. Parts were quite interesting and they were just short little bites.
Maureen L.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book ranged from mildly interesting to "meh" to downright tedious. The author writes well, the language she uses to describe these objects is skilled, but I just couldn't summon the interest to care about most of the items she chose as representative of our country. Sadly, I really didn't feel a connection to them, perhaps because of the strong biographical bent to her storytelling.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful blend of all the things I love and the things I am concerned about when it comes to the country I love. Urquhart's narrative about 50 things is brilliant, personal, reflective, and inspiring. Reading it was like meeting up with a friend for coffee and chatting about shared memories. This is a big county, yet it's small and connected coast to coast to coast.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting and very unique book about Canada in honour of its sesquicentennial. Each chapter focuses on an object that the author has selected as being important to the story of the country. The writing and the accompanying illustrations are beautiful. I loved that she stayed away from the obvious (beavers, maple leaves, etc.) and dug a little deeper.
Jessica Thomas
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Picked it up to read for Canada's 150th. Very interesting, but wish I could have picked over the, in time to let sections digest, instead of reading right through (had it from the library). This approach to the book made it a little dry for me by the end, though there were "things" she wrote about that were deeply fascinating and made me look into them more deeply.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting short stories. All definitely connected to Canada but many of these are really from Jane Urquart’s own life experiences. Some fascinating titbits are woven through this book and certainly make it a worthwhile read.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canada
I know many others really liked it but it was just okay for me. I think partly because it was so personalized to Ms. Urquhart's experience. I found the ones I preferred were the ones that were not quite as personal.
Bev Trojnar
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Each chapter is a small snapshot of Canadiana told through objects. I laughed out loud over the antics of Sir John A MacDonalds wife. The personal observations of Ms Urquhart were also enjoyable.
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She is the author of seven internationally acclaimed novels entitled, The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers, A Map of Glass, and Sanctuary Line.

The Whirlpool received the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award). Away was winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The Un