Sarah Canary

The Washington Territory, Winter, 1873 the tail end of the Year of the Monkey The woman dressed all in black who appeared without warning in the forest cleaning was of indeterminate age, small and hugely ugly A few coarse black hairs sprouted beneath a nose that was big even for a white woman Her hair was cropped, her dress torn, and she was babbling in some incompreheThe Washington Territory, Winter, 1873 the tail end of the Year of the Monkey The woman dressed all in black who appeared without warning in the forest cleaning was of indeterminate age, small and hugely ugly A few coarse black hairs sprouted beneath a nose that was big even for a white woman Her hair was cropped, her dress torn, and she was babbling in some incomprehensible tongue Chin Ah Kin thought she might be a ghost lover an immortal sent by the gods to enchant him His practical uncle thought otherwise A white woman in a Chinese railway workers camp could only be trouble He ordered Chin to return her to the white world.Traveling into that world, Chin and the mysterious woman acquire an entourage pf sorts There is B.J who is not at all sure he physically exists but is quick to join Chin and the woman as they make their escape from the local lunatic asylum There is Harold, who himself claims to be immortal because he didn t die at Andersonville and who covets the woman for his traveling freak show And there is Adelaide, brave and foolhardy, preaching female orgasm in rowdy mining camps and amid roughneck loggers, certain the woman is a victim of love Finally, there is Chin shangaied as coolie labor from his home in Canton, longing to return to China, fluent in three languages but addressed by the white world in none.Hovering over them all is Sarah Canary, who is all things to all who seek her murderess and madwoman, wraith and vampire, ghost lover and immortal a shape changer who floats and bucks through this amazing American quest novel in which the seekers a ragtag band of loners and losers, the castoffs of polite society are united by their separate visions of a mercurial spirit real enough to draw blood, ephemeral enough to evanesce like vapor.Sarah Canary is a work of literary magic that speaks to us across a hundred years of American experience, entertaining us with its droll quest even as it ambushes us with its insights into the madness of the sane, the ferocity of the civilized, and the sad vulnerability of the dispossessed It is that rarity a novel of ideas and wit that can raise tears as well as laughter from the book jacket
Sarah Canary The Washington Territory Winter the tail end of the Year of the Monkey The woman dressed all in black who appeared without warning in the forest cleaning was of indeterminate age small and hug

  • Title: Sarah Canary
  • Author: Karen Joy Fowler
  • ISBN: 9780805017533
  • Page: 363
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “Sarah Canary”

    1. Exhaustive research and exquisite writing, but this one just didn't add up to an enjoyable story for me. It is viscerally uncomfortable, with its depiction of madness, race and gender in the post-Civil War West.

    2. First, I didn't know Karen Joy Fowler had written so many books.Second, this one is as different from the only other one I've read by her,We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves as it's possible to be - leading me to think her repertoire is appealingly eclectic.Third, it's fantastic, especially if you like:1) quirkiness, lots of humour2) picaresque (sort of; it's episodic and adventuresome at least)3) historical fiction, with4) a post-modern twist (many twists)5) summarizing interjections of real [...]

    3. Mystified. I'm completely mystified. Clearly I missed something. Why is this listed as SF? And why was it a Tiptree nominee? What did I miss?A woman wanders into Chin's camp. His uncle decides that Chin should take her to a nearby asylum; both men fear that she might be an enchantress or an immortal. Along the way, the woman later called Sarah Canary (she doesn't speak except in nonsense sounds) repeatedly slips in and out of Chin's life as he desperately tries to care for her without understand [...]

    4. The Jane Austen Book Club somewhat misrepresents Karen Joy Fowler's prowess as a storyteller. Sarah Canary is her first novel, and it's riveting, mystical, gorgeousa mysterious mute woman wanders into a 19th century Washington railworkers camp and gets misplaced when the Chinese laborer who finds her attempts to escort her to an insane asylum. I have no idea what else to say about it except that you should read it immediately!

    5. Sarah Canary, wearing a battered but fashionable black dress, appears out of thin air to Chin in the archetypal forest of the American west. Initially, he mistakes her for the "ghost lover," who will abduct him for an enchanted evening of love and return him a century later in human years, leaving him prosperous beyond his wildest dreams. Instead, Sarah Canary is a totally addled, ugly white woman. Is she a crazy woman? A traumatized victim, left to roam the woods? Someone's lost, mentally chall [...]

    6. 2,5/5 This book was not what I expected, it is a story about feminism, post war America, Indians and Chinese working in railroads, mental illness I still love her writing very much but I must say that I was bored during the second half of the book

    7. I’m not sure what to make of this dreamlike story. This is an exciting, wild, sometimes fractured woman chase, and the chasers are a wild team of men and one woman with varying levels of sanity and cultures laced with superstitions and myths. The wild woman they pursue is called Sarah Canary.I’m a one-book-at-a-time reader who likes to sink into a story and read it straight through. Unfortunately I was constantly interrupted during my reading of this book, and it is a testament to the writin [...]

    8. A vividly imagined and charming retelling of the Wizard of Oz, with a liberal pinch of sci-fi thrown in the mix. Fowler reimagines Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Straw Man as Old West characters that romp their way through the Pacific Coast, San Fransico's Chinatown and numerous frontier towns. Along the way they butt up against an appropriate Wicked Witch of the West character,but continue on in pursuit of their individual and mutual dreams (just like the film). One suggestion: don't read [...]

    9. Now this book will rattle any feminist. Told from a historical standpoint of about 1873 it is full of antecedents about the treatment and psychological and physical characteristics of women. I have a feeling a lot of it is meant as black satire however it leaves an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach remembering how far women have come. Having finished it now, definitely satire, and if taken in a different light quite funny too. I really enjoyed her opening couple of pages to each chap [...]

    10. WHY I READ THIS BOOKFowler is best known as the author of "The Jane Austen Book Club." Based on that book, I had dismissed the author as a chick lit writer and never so much as glanced at her other work.Several months ago, there was an ongoing online discussion about why female authors were rarely nominated for a certain sci-fi book award. (Unfortunately, I didn't bookmark any of the articles, and now I can't find them.) As a result of that discussion, some well-known authors posted lists of wha [...]

    11. What a strange story! Who or what was Sarah Canary? Was she a woman, a phantom, a ghost? Was she real or unreal or supernatural? Was this a myth, a fairy tale, or a dream? Who were these people that Sarah Canary brought into contact in 1873 or thereabouts? Chin, Tom, BJ, and Adelaide and others were all interesting characters, but this was more Chin's story. But all were fascinating characters. There are 19 chapters, each beginning with a poem by Emily Dickenson, and eleven interludes. The inter [...]

    12. A beautifully written, philosophical work set in late nineteenth century America that explores issues of racism, sexism, mental illness and exploitation of the time.Sarah Canary, so named by one of the central characters of the story, appears out of nowhere to blaze a path through Northwest America and the lives of the people she encounters despite not being able to understand anyone, nor speak intelligibly herself. Her origin remains a mystery throughout and it never becomes clear why she seems [...]

    13. When I first read this book I hated it, but after thinking about it for awhile I think its one of my favorite books. It's very odd and has an almost 19 hundreds circus feel too it. I would highly suggest reading it.I read this for my AP english class and everyone in my class picked out the obvious topics in the book like race and gender in the 1800s but I skipped past all the and saw the real mystery. There was such a strange feeling that came with reading the book and I think that's why I hated [...]

    14. Having had my socks blown off by We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I picked this off my shelf wondering if it would stand up to a backwards look, or if it would come across as a lesser early work.It was the former. The traits that make WAACBO amazing - the compassion, the comfort with ambiguity, the sense of the liminal, the delightful nuggets of research that never become overbearing but serve the story the way capers serve the pasta - are all present here as well. I find myself quite int [...]

    15. What a profoundly original and strange novel; a litmus test for a reader. Some elements actually reminded me of Fowler's masterpiece We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; certainly, not knowing the twist is quite relevant.I loved the interrupted news pieces and I loved the chorus of "I know a story like this one". But it took me ages, literally months, to finish it, because for all my love for Fowler's talent I can't even describe how much or explain why I hate picaresque novels.

    16. It is a widely accepted fact that our passions and interests are not evenly distributed among the eras of human history. Some prefer tales of neolithic courage; others are interested in ancient Greece, Ilium, Rome. I have a soft spot for medieval and Tudor England; even Victorian England has its allure. Late 19th-century America, not so much. I do not avoid books set in that time, nor do I go out of my way to read them.The atmosphere of Sarah Canary's time period holds little appeal for me. Asyl [...]

    17. In the spring 1998, my honors seminar class read a collection of 19th century Continental European novels (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Effie Briest), all to discuss feminism, the historical context of same (esp. w/r/t/ marriage, suffrage, women-as-property, etc.), literary symbolism, literature as a vehicle for social change, how science can be perverted to do combat with that, and also how translations of these novels can be (and often are) fraught with their own problems.Anyway, this boo [...]

    18. I do not know what to make of this book. I suspected I wasn't going to enjoy it, since I haven't enjoyed other stuff by Karen Joy Fowler, but that's not exactly what happened. I did get caught up in the story, intrigued by the mystery of Sarah Canary. At the same time, I felt like it was one of a type of novel I don't get on very well with, something very opaque, where motivations aren't clear and things just happen to the characters as if they are just giving themselves over to whichever way li [...]

    19. Throughout this novel, I--like several of the characters--wondered why everyone kept chasing after the mysterious Sarah Canary, when she seemed to bring nothing but trouble and gave nothing in return. Indeed, toward the end I also found myself wondering why I kept reading the book. I did develop an extreme fondness for Chin, the Chinaman who first sets off with Sarah Canary and finds more adventure than he bargained for. Also, I did enjoy the introductory section to each chapter, where Fowler su [...]

    20. This book gave me a taste for Karen Joy Fowler's books that was long unsatisfied (until I found her next book some four years later!). The story seemlessly blends a science fiction motiv with a dark and quirky historical setting. If you enjoy cross-genre experiments, check this one out.Unfortunately, Ms. Fowler seems to have a day job that keeps her happy because she has only published four novels since 1993. Each novel is very different from the others, and she only repeated the historical sett [...]

    21. Got to page 68. But I don't know how. Sure, the writing style is impressive, and the setting, with all the historical details, is intriguing. But the yuck factor is above my comfort level, and trying to read it as Satire only makes me feel more disturbed. And then I learn from other reviews that we never do learn more about the title character? Um, no, totally not for me.(And, no, I don't agree with the Wizard of Oz comparison, even if we improve the accuracy as: Chin is the Questing, Homesick D [...]

    22. This book is inventive, brilliant and a masterpiece of original, vibrant writing. Set in 1870's West coast America the book is replete with geniune hoeroes and heroines including the elusive and elemental Sarah Canary, a kidnapped Chinaman, an escaped lunatic, a sex-positive suffragist and a drunken, shellshocked Civil War vet. Fowler manages to create a story that is inventive, surreal and at times, amazingly profound. (A fun counterpoint for this book would be Marge Piercy's book Sex Wars, she [...]

    23. I didn't think I wanted to keep reading, but I'm glad I did because the reward paid off. Be prepared to be confused, though, and don't expect to ever really find out who Sarah is. Like the characters surrounding her in this novel, she can be whoever you want her to be, which makes this curiously like meta-fiction. It is also a short history of women's roles in the west at the end of the 19th century.

    24. With so many good SciFi titles either on my shelf or coming soon from the library, I just couldn't engage with this book; I did read about 1/4 before finally abandoning itjust didn't care about the characters or story.

    25. Karen Joy Fowler da el protagonismo a los oprimidos (las mujeres, los nativos americanos, los orientales utilizados como mano de obra esclava) en los tiempos posteriores a la Guerra de Secesión de EE.UU. para construir un relato entre la novela de costumbres y el western moral. Su protagonista, Chin Ah Kin, persigue a una mujer extraña vestida de negro por los alrededores del estrecho de Pudget, en el territorio de Washington, mientras conoce a todo tipo de personajes. A través de sus histori [...]

    26. What a story! A very unique telling of American Wild West in 1870s. We have an unusual combination of characters - a Chinese labourer, a Forest Gump, an ideological suffragette, a mysterious mad woman and a morally ambigious immortal. I like the two numbering systems in the book - chapters in Arabic numbers form the main story while chapters in Roman numbers provide supplementary historical facts. Did Karen Joy Fowler study history and Eastern culture before she became a writer? She certainly ha [...]

    27. I love that after the interspersed wonderful snippets of how weird and racist late 19th century America was Fowler ends by listing even more bizarre and terrible stuff that a historical novelist might select from the late 20th century (when the novel was written). Don't get the illusion that it's only people in the past that are fucked up. We're all inmates in the same mad house, just at different times.Fowler is an amazing writer and had me in her grasp from line one. That said, the first chapt [...]

    28. The one where Chin becomes responsible for a strange white woman who won't speak and follows her all over the post-Civil War West, picking up strange allies and strange enemies along the way.This is the sort of book that reviewers tend to describe as "an exploration of " or "an examination of " That's not inaccurate, except that it's also a romp. You could think of it as sort of the Funhouse of Bigotry -- violent bigotry is the engine of most of the action, and casual bigotry is the language of [...]

    29. Sarah Canary is less a person than a projection, a receptacle for the fanatsies of others. This may be the usual lot for the stereotypical beauty but Sarah Canary is not lovely, nor does she exhibit many signs of intelligence or sympathy for others. Indeed, she is impressively lacking in social skills, and her behavior is peculiar and unsettling.Mute and possessed of an exsaperating attempt to elude her would be saviors, nevertheless, the effect she has on other's, when they can't ignore her, is [...]

    30. The narrative of the story was like an old penny dreadful novel. Setin the West after the Civil War, a motley group of characters are thrown together due to the mysterious Sarah Canary. There is Chin theChinaman who wants to take her back to her family and home wherever that is. He is very leery of moving through the white society of that time and rightfully so. He is joined by B.J. the mental patient. B.Jems in awe of Sarah. Adelaide is a feisty suffragette making herliving by traveling around [...]

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