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Sèrie: Susannah (4)

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Susannah Rides Again de Muriel Denison

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A very satisfying conclusion to the series- though I confess that I'd love to read Susannah Marries A Mountie!

There's some of the disturbing Indian prejudice here when Little Chief makes a reappearance and tells Sue how he has had to embrace the (superior) white man's ways in order to become his awesomely cultured and handsome self.

This tale, though, is mostly about kids trying to save the majestic old forests of Canada from the rapacious lumber barons, here as demonized as I've ever seen them. There's plenty of time for high jinks and hilarity in between impassioned speeches, though. And of course, the older teens in the story have some romance.

I love these books for what they are, and I love the evocation of Canada at the turn of the last century, warts and all.

( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
The saga of Susannah Elizabeth Fairfield Winston, that fun-loving, goodhearted young Canadian girl whose love-affair with the Mounties (the North West Mounted Police) began in Susannah: A Little Girl with the Mounties and continued in Susannah of the Yukon, and whose experiences at school in England were chronicled in Susannah at Boarding School, reaches its conclusion in this fourth and final volume of Muriel Denison's series devoted to her adventures. Here, in the deceptively named Susannah Rides Again - an odd title choice, all in all, as there is virtually no riding in this story, which takes place in the backwoods of Quebec - our heroine spends her summer holidays with Aunt Sassie, a relation of her father's, and a group of distant cousins.

Although ridiculed at first by these young Canadian relatives whom she has never met, Sue eventually wins a place amongst them, and joins in their boating and swimming adventures on and around Four Winds Island, Aunt Sassie's beautiful island-home on Lac de Lune. But when a river drive sees a steady stream of logs, loggers and rivermen on the lake, trouble is not long to follow, for Aunt Sassie, who inherited the island from her lumber-baron grandfather, and who values its majestic pines almost as personal friends, refuses to allow the river boss to snag his booms - large logs strung together, and used as a barrier to keep the lumber from escaping - to the trees of Four Winds. When she goes further, and insults the lumber company's agent, he retaliates by threatening to clear cut the island, the timber rights to which had apparently, unknown to Aunt Sassie, been sold off. Can the children save the pines of Four Winds Island, or will their somewhat cantankerous but essentially loving relative find her home ruined in the twilight of her life...?

Reading the first half of this book, I was strongly reminded of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, which also tells the story of a group of children spending their lazy summer days on a lake, exploring its little islands. But although the book is engaging throughout, with plenty of adventures and good times - the children learn to run the logs, make friends with some of the rivermen, and embark on a journey to a local Seigneur's manor, to get help - the happy-go-lucky tone at the beginning soon gives way to some rather serious issues and events. I was struck, as I have been with the previous installments of Denison's series, by the patronizing way in which Canada's native peoples are discussed, although I think that, ironically, the author was probably being rather progressive for her day. When Little Chief, whom Sue befriended in Susannah: A Little Girl with the Mounties, turns up as a suave, educated young man in this story, his good deportment serves to convince both Aunt Sassie and Seigneur St. Georges that they have been mistaken, in some of their beliefs. Denison is clearly arguing that, with the same education and advantages, First Nations people are the equals of anyone. But Little Chief's confidences to Sue, in which he discusses his education, and her reflections on "how far he has come," make clear that their cultures are not equal, and that any potential for equality in them rests on their ability to adopt European and Euro-Canadian ways.

Another theme that quickly becomes paramount, is that of the environment, and the importance of good stewardship of natural resources - specifically, the forests. Although I do not agree with the idea that Denison "demonizes" lumber barons, as another reviewer has stated - if anything the narrative encourages us to believe that those at the top are actually quite benevolent, and that any misconduct (like the bullying of old women and children) is the purview of middle management, and soon righted, if those in charge discover it - she certainly highlights the problematic nature of clear-cutting, both for wildlife and for people. She also includes, through Sue's amazing idea to save the Four Winds pines, a very early example of tree-hugging! And here most readers probably thought that strapping oneself to a tree**, as a means of protest, was a contemporary development! The picture that accompanied this scene was an awesome visual, and an unexpected treat to stumble upon, while reading! Finally, I was also struck by the frequent praise heaped on Canada here, which makes this an interesting story, I would think, for those looking to research the development of national identity in the children's literature of that country. Engaging, entertaining, unexpectedly thought-provoking - Susannah Rides Again turned out to be, despite some significant flaws, a worthy conclusion to this series. I don't know that I would recommend it to today's young readers, although I can see it offering a rewarding experience, if some of the anachronistic content were discussed with a responsible adult, but for adults interested in vintage children's literature - particularly vintage Canadian children's literature - it really has quite a bit to offer.

**Those looking for an even earlier example, might want to consider the Indian folktale of The People Who Hugged the Trees. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Muriel Denisonautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Bryan, MargueriteIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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