I have always been a history lover, especially the time period 1890-1920, and obsessed with World War One to the point of addiction. In recent years, this focus has grown to include Canadian history.
Why, you may ask, would an American be interested in Canada, after all it’s known for politeness, hockey, bacon, Mounties and Degrassi Junior High?
It began with the conception of my novel Angel of Mercy.
Angel of Mercy
The story I wanted to tell in Angel of Mercy would be impossible with an American nurse. The United States wasn’t in the war long enough for me to tell the type of story I wanted to tell. I needed to discover a new nationality for my main character.
I had several options, but I chose Canadian. The selection was somewhat arbitrary, I must admit, but it won out over British, my second choice, for three reasons: I’ve traveled to Ontario several times and always felt quite comfortable there. The close proximity means familiarity. Canada does not feel like a “foreign” country. I felt I could replicate the nation’s attitudes and options better than if I had chosen a country outside of North America.
Even the title of the novel is Canadian in its inspiration. During the war, Canadian nursing sisters earned the nickname “angels of mercy” from their patients because of their dedication and hard work as well as the role they played in saving countless lives.
More than Polite Mounties
After beginning my research, which is ongoing, I knew I had made the right choice. Starting out, I knew nothing other than Canada participated in the war. I came away with a sense of what my character would have felt with her nation and its accomplishments.
I also came away with newfound knowledge. The names Laurier, Borden, Bourassa and Currie are now familiar to me. I know the significance of Vimy Ridge as well as the Second Battle of Ypres and Passchendaele not to mention the smashing of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive, the divisive effects of conscription and women’s suffrage.
In essence, I learned Canada is more than polite Mounties. Throughout my research, I read about political infighting, controversial elections, murders, riots, the rift between the French and English, and racial tensions.
Suddenly, Angel of Mercy had a secondary reason for having a Canadian protagonist. It could be used as a teaching tool, exposing Americans to history most are completely unaware of, but like all works of fiction it would teach subtly through its characters and the events in their lives.
I plan on releasing several Pinterest boards over the next several months that illustrate the people, places and events that make early 20th-century Canada special. If you love history, you’ll want to check them out.
Is there a nation, besides the one of your birth, that fascinates you? Leave a comment below.
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