Around England with a Dog by Lesley Choyce, 2022. Rocky Mountain Books.
Early into reading Around England with a Dog by Lesley Choyce, I started chuckling. I kept chuckling. Choyce’s humour is understated yet effervescent. He and his wife Linda travelled around England (as you may guess), but also Scotland and Wales, with a Highland terrier named Kelty.
While the intrepid trio hiked, toured, meandered, and imbibed various local beers — the latter with Kelty’s approval, of course — I drank in literary history and astute observations. What also enticed me? Choyce’s words. To relate one of many examples, he depicts Claude Monet as a man with an “ambitious beard.” Ambitious describes Monet to a t. Around England with a Dog is a captivating travelogue underscored by the author’s candour and self-deprecation.
Broken Man on a Halifax Pier by Lesley Choyce, 2019. Dundurn.
Book reviews are supposed to be objective and largely impersonal. Caveat: This one is personal. Tune out if you wish.
Broken Man on a Halifax Pier swirls around Stewart Harbour, Nova Scotia, a fictionalized fishing post close to the real Sheet Harbour on the Eastern Shore, where I grew up. Although I left the shore at 17, I still feel it in my bones.
Some followers of this blog have been asking me to broaden my introduction. At the risk of boring others, here we go. [You can skip ahead to the review. See the last paragraph.] Shortly after leaving the shore, I headed to OZ, taking in the whole Red Continent, after which I kept goin’ down the road. Over a 20-year span, I “paused” to work many times – in Australia again and again, central and western Canada, the USA, England, and New Zealand – to fill my pockets and keep travelling, which I managed to do, seeing every continent except Antarctica. I only stopped because my pack was worn out. Just kidding.
But enough of my wanderlust. Back to the Halifax pier.
It could be that I’m prewired to like this book. Broken man on a Halifax pier happens to be a lyric from one of my favourite Stan Rogers songs: ‘Barrett’s Privateers.’
Now, the book review. To me, Broken Man on a Halifax Pier is an honest feelgood novel, not soppy but uplifting. I won’t recap the plot (I rarely do). Suffice to say, it’s a story of redemption and love. True love often comes across as unbelievable; I felt occasionally at sea as I read, but I didn’t mind. A beguiling woman (smart, sexy, and rich) falls for a completely down-and-out man. I fell for them and the setting. Choyce knows and loves the Eastern Shore. He brings it to life like no author has. For that, I am eternally grateful.