I'll Tell You A Secret: A Memory Of Seven Summers
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“Memory opens for me through my body. I slip back because I catch a smell, hear a sound, or hold an evocative flavour on my tongue. But these single-sense glimpses of or gusts from the past are often fleeting. More compelling for me, more total, is when my whole body, the entire surface of my skin, and my muscles’ movements connect me to my old self. Especially it is the movements of summer, when more of me meets the elements, while I am swimming, or feeling my bramble-scratched legs against hot rocks. Or when I am experiencing the lovely lassitude that fills me at the end of a long afternoon of sun and water as I stand slicing tomatoes for my supper, while corn boils, and sun falls in the window on a pile of raspberries in a bowl. All my senses, all, are alive.” – from I’ll Tell You a Secret
A delightful, beautifully written and thoroughly engaging story of coming-of-age in the 1950s that focuses on Anne Coleman between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, and her relationship with “Mr. MacLennan” (Canadian literary figure Hugh MacLennan), which played out in the summers in the village of North Hatley, Quebec, a picturesque resort that has been known to attract artists and writers and the upper-classes. In prose that is intimate, visual, and resonant with immediacy, Anne Coleman brings us back to summers in the 1950s, revealing the eccentricities of North Hatley and its residents, but most of all focusing on her special friendship with a man many years her senior.
Independent, individualistic, sensually alert, as a young girl Anne Coleman did not fit the mould. Later, when Anne is eighteen, she leads a double life, one which follows the course of a romance with Frank, the dark, brooding European young man who has a strange hold over her, and the enigmatic Mr. MacLennan, whose own feelings for Anne suggest themselves to her in ways that are at once confusing, tantalizing, and deeply important.
Along the way, the story also offers a wonderfully evocative portrayal of the 1950s, its sexual repressiveness and mores. The beautiful village of North Hatley comes alive in vivid ways.
This is a unique coming-of-age story by a writer who writes sentences that cut to the bone.
From the Hardcover edition.
qualities. Men gave their baby boys righteous names about striving and battling for good. Sometimes a name could be several words even, something along the lines of Be Righteous in Battle, or Always Endeavour, and no one would dream of calling a baby boy one of them now. But the girls’ names have lasted, some of them anyway: Faith. Prudence. Patience. Hope. Even Charity is a name, I think. It’s interesting that they are all meek qualities. They all suggest being quiet, being careful and good.
place. For instance, lots of people must have known about Mrs. Rochester and no one did anything. That was a long time ago and only in a book, but it was modelled on real life. And things in villages haven’t changed so much, that is, the hidden things in villages. In any case, that woman behind the Hob Nob is not the only one in our village. Someone like Mr. MacLennan is too innocent to know about such things. Which is a funny thing to think, when he is so much older. But I don’t bother to tell
exactly? I don’t even know. I had such improbable daydreams before, and the more I actually get to know him, the more confused I am. I shove away the thought of his wife. I watch him racing across the red-brick dust of the court and swinging his strong brown arm, sending the ball smoothly over the net to just where Mr. Bassett fails to be in time to smack it back. Mr. MacLennan wins. The two men come almost staggering off the court and he stands bouncing his racket against his knee and
I don’t want to leave Mr. MacLennan. Next summer feels a very long time away. On my next to last day, it is raining again. Fall is around the corner and there are even yellow leaves here and there among the dark green and on some trees whole branches have turned. There have now been several quite chilly nights and the lake is already colder. I am walking along the road by the lake and hardly anyone is around. No cars pass me and I realize that quite a few people have already returned to the
I’ve decided that I will. In thinking it over, I realized that I wish someone had spoken to me in this vein when I was young, and that decided me.” He is making whatever is coming sound important and my mind moves over possibilities. I feel building suspense, and yet it can’t be what I, however irrationally, had hoped it might be as I walked down the hill to his house, or he wouldn’t be relating it to his own young self. We drive on a little farther and then he pulls over into a spot where