WHAT THE MEDIA SAYS ABOUT LETTERS FROM THE COUNTRY
"It's official - Marsha Boulton is funny!"
- Canadian Press
"One of those rare books that will appeal to almost every reader"
- London Free Press
Reada review from the Globe and Mail
"Boulton's musings are as soft as a lamb's fleece."
- Globe and Mail
"Must reading if you're thinking about moving to rural digs.,"
- Calgary Herald
"Letters from the Country is Boulton's love affair with life on the farm, with the animals that also inhabit her new world, with her country neighbours, and with the foibles and follies that make up her daily adventures.... It is Boulton's voice of experience that makes her book a unique achievement. The book is an affectionate, humourous and personal account of a city woman's leap into life "down on the farm." - The Newspacket
Read a Story selected from Letters from the Country Omnibus
Letters from the Country Omnibus
Published by McArthur & Company, 595 pages, $32.95
by Tom Cruickshank
You need look no further than the office water cooler for evidence that people are aching to flee the city. Longing to gaze over a horizon where church steeples still outnumber apartment towers, an entire generation is talking about growing their own vegetables, fixing up an old farmhouse and raising a few goats, For now, mortgages and careers keep them mired in the rat race, but they're counting the days till they can kiss urban life good-bye. Until then, reading about life in the country must suffice. That's where Marsha Boulton comes in.
Raised in suburban Toronto but now a 20-year veteran of farm living, Boulton is a hero to the rural wannabes. She has earned a respectable following for her gentle, personable essays describing the trials of adjusting to country life.
Her anecdotes, now collected in a single volume as thick as the family Bible, describe her fish-out-of-water misadventures eking out a living as a sheep farmer. Each story is overflowing with minutiae that make fascinating reading. Did you know, for instance, that sheep have scent glands between their hooves, which help them find their way home? Or that it's pointless to spend good money on a fancy mailbox (it only encourages the local vandals)'?
Boulton didn't wait for the time to be right to make her move. In 1980, just as her career in journalism was taking flight (she edited the People Section of Maclean's), she was taken by a realtor on a fateful ride through the countryside around Mount Forest, Ont, and she' and her husband bought a farmstead right then and there.
With no experience in animal husbandry, Boulton threw herself into shepherding, but quickly found it didn't pay the bills. So she went back to writing, and could soon claim some of the Heritage Minutes on TV among her credits. But her favourite creative outlet was a series of little essays based on farm experiences.
By the time Boulton's stories found their way to the' local paper, she had settled on a formula: Light, lyrical and ever so cheerful, her style could be dismissed were it not for the skill she displays. Her keen sense of observation eventually found favour at CBC Radio, and in 1995, her newspaper columns and radio dispatches were compiled in Letters from the Country. which won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Two sequels followed; all three have been folded into the Omnibus.
Comparisons to Leacock certainly apply, but Boulton stands in good company among more contemporary masters of the "country vignette." Dan Needles immediately comes to mind for his five hugely successful stage plays about naive Walt Wingfield, a stockbroker turned farmer, Vancouverite Michael Kluckner's Pllllet Sllrprise and Wi.,e Acres follows the foibles of learning to farm on the Fraser Delta. While Needles and Kluckner allow themselves to develop stories and characters, Boulton sticks to a shorter, punchier format. This is both her strength and her flaw. You can pick up the Omnibus at any point but sometimes you wish the 130 entries, few longer than four pages, had a chance to tell a longer story. Maybe Boulton feels the same frustration. Her next project is a full-fledged novel.
- Book review of Letters from the Country Omnibus in the Globe and Mail, Saturday, August . Tom Cruickshank is the Editor of Harrowsmith Magazine
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