A Flower for Allie by Isobel Raven

flowerforallieThere is something singularly attractive about Isobel Raven’s short stories. I have just reread A Flower for Allie after a two-year gap, and lost none of my enthusiasm.

Ten of the stories are set in rural southwestern Ontario, 1930-50, and six in Toronto, 1990-2000. The author draws us quickly into her chosen times and places. Each story moves fast but without haste. Every word contributes to plot, character, or atmosphere; there is no waste. The seemingly effortless style is direct and clear, fresh, invigorating, good-natured, and insightful (one senses decades of careful observation).

Isobel Raven reminds us how ordinary stories about ordinary people become extraordinary in the hands of extraordinary writers. While providing discreet details that build a vivid and convincing picture, she does not tell too much – leaving us to imagine how matters might develop in the rest of the story, and beyond.

Though her voice is her own, Isobel Raven reminds me pleasingly of Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, and Stephen Leacock. Indeed, Munro, the book’s dedicatee, wrote to her, “I am delighted with the stories, which seem to me to have a unique tone and a special, keen vision.” I share that delight.

This book stands firmly, fittingly, right up there in my Canadiana shelves.

Barry Clegg