Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Curve of Time

Scarlet told me to read The Curve of Time after finding out about our trip to Desolation Sound. My local library didn't have a copy, so I was forced to buy a used paperback from Amazon.

The author, Muriel Blanchet was left a widow in 1927 in Victoria on Vancouver Island. She had 5 children and a 25' motor launch with an oar-powered dinghy. With that in hand, she became one of the first authors to write about the area around Desolation Sound and the Sunshine Coast in that era.

Apparently, most of the writings was intended for women's magazines, so her style is very short on details. She tosses out names of places in the area, but there are no maps, no charts, no illustrations. There aren't any recommendations: "Here's when you go, here are the local quirks" are apparently not of interest to readers of those magazines of that time.

As a result, I got about mid-way through the book before realizing that she wasn't a fully competent boat handler. She dragged anchor multiple times, several times requiring moving the boat in the middle of the night. And these aren't high wind conditions we're talking about. One might think that the anchors of those days might not have been as good, but later on in the book you realize that can't be so since on days when she'd used the anchor successfully, it was quite capable of holding the boat in the storm. And of course, motor boats are way easier to anchor than sailboats.

Of course, questionable decisions always make for better stories than "clear sailing and good weather." But her questionable decisions come early and often. From going camping at 6000 feet armed with only a blanket, to abandoning her kids on a beach in bear country to go fishing (though maybe if I had 5 kids I might be tempted to do that since I could afford to lose one or two), or climbing up above Princess Louisa Inlet with her children only to have the path behind her crumble down into the water, it's a demonstration of how resilient human beings are: apparently all of her children survived!

It's interesting with the passage of time to see all the things we are aware of now that we weren't back then. She thought killer whales were dangerous (they're not). She thought nothing of her son's concussion after he fell off a balcony (we know that's dangerous today). All throughout the book is breezy, almost cavalier about exploration and travel: at no point was she pressed for time, and she could have waited out any storms in the area in sheltered conditions as long as they had enough food.

Ms. Blanchet was obviously very resourceful: she fixes her own engine, fishes for dinner, and in several places rows the dinghy to tow the boat or kedge the anchor. The times when she does something that doesn't make sense (such as leaving a sheltered anchorage in the middle of a storm for no reason) leaves me scratching my head.

I'm not sure I would have gained much from the book by reading it before my trip. The book's of interest to those who'd like to see what the place was like back in the old days, and as an example of "Free Range Parenting" it's definitely worth reading. But other than that, I find it hard to recommend it.
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