Sunday 5 August 2018

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie
The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie

Cecily Ross' The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie is a fictional and very readable account of the life of Susanna Moodie, a Canadian pioneer and one of Canada's earliest writers.

Lost Diaries begins during Susanna’s youth in 1815 England.  In a home of eight children, including six girls, there is little chance that everyone will receive a dowry.  Only the eldest and most attractive sisters are slated for marriage, but Susanna’s interests lie elsewhere: in writing.

Unlike many girls of the time, the sisters receive some education and are able to immerse themselves in London’s literary scene.  Susanna and several siblings, including
beloved companion Kate and older sister Agnes, become writers.  Despite their lack of means, they are well-regarded in the community and find “patrons” who act as second fathers.  Their writing appears in various publications.

Although Susanna is not wealthy, she is unabashedly class conscious, stating, “I have lived in proximity to the lower classes all my life… They had their place and I had mine.” (p. 155)
Against her own expectations, Susanna meets and falls in love with John Moodie, an ebullient man with a zest for life and a hankering to explore.  Once she and John marry, they decide to move to Canada where land is ripe for the picking.

The move brings Susanna’s progressive lifestyle to a crashing halt.  Canada, it turns out, is little more than dense bush, rocky soil and muddy roads.  Its population is undereducated and does not take kindly to being looked down upon by the likes of Susanna.

So begins several years of “roughing it” and producing many children while John Moodie pursues a host of “get rich quick” schemes that sink the Moodies deeper and deeper into debt.  They endure years of abject poverty – a life that Susanna never imagined.

But despite the drudgery, the Canadian wilderness works its way into Susanna’s heart.  The majestic trees and hidden lakes hold a magic that the Moodies never encountered in England.  The indigenous people are welcoming and knowledgeable. Susanna’s haughtiness diminishes in the face of her new-found life and although she continues to write, she is humbled by her fellow wilderness inhabitants. 

Lost Diaries tells of a journey from old world to new, but is also the journey of a human soul. Susanna experiences the birthing pains of a new country, and discovers her true identity along the way.

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