Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book review: Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields by Richard Thomas Wright

The book Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields by Richard Thomas Wright is one of the standard works for understanding history of this region. Now in its fifth printing, Wright's book has been updated and rewritten. The first four editions of the book sold more than 35,000 copies in the 30 years since it was first published. I have confidence that this version will also sell very well.

I first read this book many years ago, when I was in university and getting a degree in history. Now I live very close to Barkerville, and write non-fiction British Columbia history books. So a new edition of Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields is a great addition to my already groaning bookshelves.

Not only is this an excellent introduction to the history of Barkerville and surrounding regions, it puts the region and its people into the greater context of British Columbian history. The Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860s, in which Barkerville was one of the main players, was just one of many gold rushes that spanned the globe. Miners from as far flung places as Australia, India, Europe, China and as close as the United States all formed a tight-knit group of men and women who carried friendships and feuds from goldfield to goldfield. Here you'll find engaging tales and anecdotes of eccentrics, land barons, merchants, miners, murderers, and much more.

As well as being a keeper as far as my bookshelf goes, I liked the volume because it also included "A Visitor's Guide to Williams Creek." Wright is well-positioned to give advice to visitors. He has worked at Barkerville Historic Town for many years and now, in addition to research and writing, manages Barkerville's Theatre Royal with partner Amy Newman as Newman and Wright Theatre Company. Barkerville is one of the Cariboo region's greatest treasures, and this book is a must-read for people love the place as much as I do.

Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields is published by Heritage House, and is available where ever fine books are sold.

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I review books about British Columbia and about Nordic Noir. Please contact me directly if you want your book reviewed. I am on Twitter a lot. Drop by and say hi. I'm writing a book about Jean Caux, aka Cataline, the famed packer of British Columbia. It's almost finished. I'm typing as fast as I can.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Book Review: "Campie" by Barbara Stewart

It seems that everywhere you go in Canada, you hear of people leaving for the oil fields in Alberta or Northern British Columbia to get a job. Some of these jobs are paid very well indeed. Others, not so much. Especially if you're the campie.

I've had this book for a while, and just got to reading it a few days ago. I wasn't expecting to like it, given the description on the front of the book which gives one definition of campie (the main character of this memoir) as "a sober, celibate, bankrupt vegetarian" because that doesn't sound like much fun now, does it?

But I was wrong. This is a very good book indeed. Barbara Stewart has given us great insight into not just the lonely slog work of a campie (a camp attendant in an oil-rig camp...a cleaning lady, a janitor), but also allows us to witness a searching insight into the soul of the writer. For some oil patch workers, their experience in the north turns into their own personal Heart of Darkenss. For many, it may be the only choice they have. What seems to be a quick way to accumulate some ready money, turns out to be much more.

Stewart looks into herself and sees how she ended up where she did, and how she was going to get herself out of that place, both emotionally and physically. Campie is beautifully written and constructed, with a smooth flow from one event--and thought process--to the other. The book is 190 pages long, and I read it quickly in one evening. That says a lot for the quality of the words, and the deep emotional connection that the author conveys. 

For an interesting insight into how she incorporated her religious faith into the book, read this great blog post.

Campie is published by Heritage House and is available anywhere fine books are sold.

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I review books on British Columbia , and on Nordic Noir. I can be found on Twitter @susmithjosephy I'm writing another book, so check out my website.