Sunday, November 28, 2021

Emily-Jane Hills Orford reviews "A Girl Should Be"

A Girl Should Be

by Ruth Latta

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Author Ruth Latta has a passion for the 1920s and 1930s era. She’s particularly interested in the ever-changing role and rights of women in society, which is particularly poignant during this era. Her recent book, A Girl Should Be (Ottawa, Baico: 2021, ISBN 978-1-77216-269-1, $25), follows young Annie Taylor through her teenage, coming-of-age years, as she manoeuvres through loves found and lost, friendships, and finding her place in a world that only expects women to marry and have children.

 Annie, the younger sister of Charlotte, whom we read about in Ruth’s earlier book, Votes, Love and War (Baico: 2019), is more a flapper, one who has passions to exist in both worlds: one with marriage, love and children and the other with a fulfilling career. Although Annie’s biggest passion is women’s fashion and designing clothes, the Depression Era isn’t the most supportive time to entrepreneur one’s talents. She ends up in a small, isolated, rural town in northwestern Ontario, teaching in a one-room schooled. All while one love has married another because he managed to get her in the family way and another love has gone into the ministry.

 The Depression, followed by the rise of Naziism and Communism overseas, led into the Second World War and more separations and hardships ensued. But Ruth has created a strong character in Annie, one who can stand the test of time and come out ahead and above the trials and tribulations she endured.

 The plot revolves around the growing conflicts of the era: the Depression, political unrest, wars and, most significantly, the rights and position of women in society. Ruth has woven an engaging story that will both entertain and educate readers on this very tumultuous time in history. The descriptive narrative sets the stage, allowing the reader to step into the story and feel a part of it. Dialogue is well constructed, paying particular attention to the topics of discussion and the vocabulary relevant to this era. The protagonist, Annie, is a fun-loving young woman with a passion to succeed, to make something of herself, and to follow her dreams.

 As men and women struggled to come to terms with the need to find more equity between the sexes, Ruth struggles with her own sense of purpose and need to be who she wants to be while, at the same time, accepting her place and role in society as a woman. While her older sister stood up with the suffragettes fighting for women’s rights, Annie set her own course, seeking success and, hopefully, a permanent romantic attachment.

 I found the title interesting: A Girl Should Be. Apparently, Ruth adapted it from a quote from the Coco Chanel which reads: “A girl should be anything she wants to be.” It’s very apropos for a story about the changing roles of women in a difficult and, oft-time, unfair society. Annie desperately wants to be a successful fashion designer, but reality and the need to support herself, lead her initially on a slightly different path, one which she inevitably excels.

 The author’s mother and aunts were teachers in rural Ontario schools during the Depression and some of their stories influenced her understanding and appreciation for female teachers living in this era.

 I enjoy Ruth’s books and learning about women’s history in the early part of the twentieth century. The author demonstrates a sound knowledge of history, the ongoing fight for women’s rights and the compelling need to tell a good story. She does it all with a passion for the life and times and the women who made her-story as important and compelling as his-story. Well, done!


Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford, award-winning author of Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads: 2018), and King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads: 2019).







Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review of "A Girl Should Be",

 A Girl Should Be  

by Ruth Latta,

reviewed by Lorna Foreman

        A Girl Should Be (Ottawa, Baico, 2021,   ISBN: 9781172169,  $30 sc)  is the latest novel by Ottawa author, Ruth Latta. Once again I am enthralled by her ability to take a protagonist through the changing and difficult times of our Canadian history.

        We follow Annie Tyler through some of Canada's tumultuous times, giving us a very personal  view of those periods.  Annie, in the 1920s, was a fun-loving young woman who matured while experiencing the devastating Depression of the 1930s, the rise of Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism and ultimately, World War II.

        I wish I could have learned history in the interesting way that the author presents it to us.  It was even more interesting for me because my mother would have been Annie's age at that time, so I have a much better understanding of what women like my mother lived through.  Women  were attempting to bring more equality to the relationship between men and women, and to play a different role in our society. They were starting to work outside of the home at a volatile period of history.

        The Depression brought enormous changes to women's lives, and men's, too. Annie matured through these years, developing into a more serious young woman trying to support herself while attending university and ultimately finding a job teaching in a remote region.  It is a fascinating read.  Ruth Latta is brilliant in drawing you into the story as though, you too, are living in those times.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

our new home - hah!

Roger and I, posed in front of the children's playhouse at my niece's home in Englehart, ON. July 14, 2021


A Girl Should Be  is the title of my new book, to be published later in 2021 by Baico Publishing of Ottawa. It's a stand-alone sequel to my novel, 
Votes, Love and War, published by Baico in 2019.  Votes is about the Manitoba Women's Suffrage movement and the First World War. It centred on a fictional character, a farm girl named Charlotte, but brought in historical figures such as the Beynon sisters, Nellie McClung, and other pioneers of the 20th century women's suffrage movement.

Charlotte was of a generation that came of age just before or during the First World War.  I am particularly interested in the history of the 1920s and 1930s, and decided to write another novel, focusing on Charlotte's younger sister, Annie.  Annie is as much of a "flapper" as she can be in rural and small town Manitoba in the 1920s.  Then, with the onset of the Great Depression, starting with the stock market crash in 1929, Annie's life changes.

Although Annie's chief interest is in fashion, she qualifies as a teacher and finds a job at a remote school in Northwestern Ontario, where she makes a success of a difficult job - but not so much in her personal life.

The title A Girl Should Be, is from a quote attributed to Coco Chanel, who is reported to have said, 
"A girl should be anything she wants to be."  The novel is about women's changing roles and the various social expectations of women at that time  (many of them unfair.)

In writing about Ontario backwoods schools of the 1930s I was inspired by the experiences of my mother and three of her sisters who were rural teachers during the Depression years and afterwards.  I hasten to add that none of these ladies was the real Annie, who is a fictional creation.


Saturday, May 15, 2021

review of Closer to Fine

Here is my review of Jodi S. Rosenfeld's novel, Closer to Fine :