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The Curve of Time

M. Wylie Blanchet’s The Curve of Time is the sort of book that comes along once in a generation – and defines it. With The Curve of Time, the generation is my grandmother’s (perhaps your great grandmother’s). The generation of women who raised their kids between the world wars. In my grandmother’s case, that meant a life when you went to three homes in Shaughnessy (Vancouver’s finest neighbourhood) and cooked three Thanksgiving dinners before you went back to McGill street to cook one for your logger husband and your three boys. For M.Wylie Blanchet, it meant renting out her small home on Vancouver Island in the summers for income, while she and her children adventured along one of the most beautiful and rugged coastlines in the world on a twenty-foot sailboat.

M. Wylie Blanchet and Children

Geoffry Blanchet and his wife Muriel came to Vancouver Island from Toronto in 1922. Blanchet, whose emotional health seems not to have been good, had been a bank manager, and the strain of it had proved too much for him. They took over an abandoned cottage on Curteis Point, close to the town of Sidney. They paid six hundred dollars for a sunken sailboat, and re-floated it. A few years later, Geoffry took it out for a solitary camping trip. His boat and camp were found abandoned. Muriel was suddenly alone, in a (still in those days) remote location, with five young children.

She rented out “Little House” near Sidney while she took her kids sailing all summer in the same little sailboat that had taken her husband away from her. She was no longer Muriel, but M. Wylie Blanchet. She and the children saw the abandoned villages famous from Emily Carr paintings. They were Emily Carr’s contemporaries in the quest for British Columbia’s magical, pre-contact past, and M.Wylie Blanchet recorded their travails and discoveries in pellucid, equally magical prose. The Curve of Time is a portrait of a strong, determined, sensitive woman raising her children in penury between the Wars, a panorama of a largely lost, resolutely coastal way of life, and a hymn to the indomitable human spirit.

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