Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review of The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek

Thomas H. Raddall's collection of short stories, entitled The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek won the Governor General's Award for Literary merit in fiction in 1943. The short stories could best be termed local colour. They are generally set in rural Nova Scotia and portray the Scottish heritage, seafaring tradition, and the first nations. Within that context, there is a large variety here: everything from a fishing story to one that takes place on the day of the Halifax explosion.

Raddall's stories are lush with details and they paint a vivid mental picture of local life. However, as strong literary works, they are a mixed bag. Nevertheless, they are generally quite entertaining. I particularly enjoyed "Champeen Liar," "The Taming of Moredcai Mimms," and Lady Lands Leviathan. They are all light and fun.

However, one story stands apart, both as darker in tone and more interesting from a literary perspective. "Winter's Tale," as alluded to above, is set during the day of the Halifax Explosion of 1917 through the perspective of a boy, James. Initially, James is unaware of why his school's windows are blown out. As the story progresses, he begins to realize the level of devastation that the city has suffered and comes face to face with some of the casualites. It is a powerful story, very well told, and I believe it to be the highlight of the collection.

To summarize, on the whole, The Pied Piper of Dipper Creek is a good collection of entertaining Nova Scotian local colour short stories. While it may not be high literature, it is nevertheless very successful on its own terms.