The Age of Water Lilies

The Age of Water Lilies

Book - 2009
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With The Age of Water Lilies, Theresa Kishkan has written a beautiful novel that travels from the time of colonial wars to the pacifist movement to 1960s Victoria, and shares a unique and delightful relationship between 70-year-old Flora and 7-year-old Tessa. When Flora Oakden leaves her English home in 1912 for the fledgling community of Walhachin in British Columbia's interior, she doesn't expect to fall in love with the dry sage-scented benchlands above the Thompson River-and with the charismatic labourer who is working in the orchard. When he and all the men of Walhachin return to Europe and the battlefields of France, Flora remains behind, pregnant and unmarried. Shunned by those remaining in the settlement, she travels west to Victoria and meets freethinker Ann Ogilvie, who provides shelter for her in a house overlooking the Ross Bay Cemetery. Fifty years later, among the headstones of Ross Bay, curious young Tessa is mapping her own personal domain when her life becomes interwoven with that of her neighbour, the now-elderly Flora. Out of their friendship, a larger world opens up for these unlikely companions. Theresa has written a sweeping story that transcends time and springs from a passionate exploration of the natural world, its weather, seasons and plants.
Publisher: [Victoria, B.C.] : Brindle & Glass, c2009.
ISBN: 9781897142424
Characteristics: 275 p. :,ill., map ;,22 cm.


From Library Staff

bianca23 Nov 08, 2010

This is a beautifully written, lyrical even, novel about a very strong woman facing challenges in a time when neither strong women nor the challenges women face were appreciated.

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WVMLStaffPicks Sep 20, 2014

Written with a poet's sensibility and eye for detail, this story follows the life of Flora, a young girl who comes from England to Canada to homestead with her brother in the Thompson River area. She falls in love and is left to raise a child on her own after her sweetheart is killed in the First World War. Shunned as an unwed mother, she heads to Victoria to begin her life anew in a world full of promise for women's rights and despair for the number of men lost in a brutal war. In her later years Flora discovers Tessa, a little girl who sneaks into her garden looking for frogs amongst the water lilies. Despite their age difference, their passion for nature and local history draws them together and their friendship blossoms.

Jul 08, 2013

Flora’s story starts out wonderfully. A young, English woman from a well-to-do family comes to the interior of British Columbia to forge a new life. She’s a bit of an embarrassment to her family ‘cause she’s turned down suitors and is.....gasp!....still unmarried at the “old” age of 19. Best that she goes to the Colonies.
Once Flora moves to Victoria, though, I felt the story started to lose some of its momentum. It had all the elements of a great story: young, unmarried mother in the 1920s, women coming into their own independence, a growing city, changing times, etc. But it turned into a bit of a lecture about war and pacifism and women being left behind. Flora’s story was rather passive as well. She lived a normal life of the times (barring her non-married status): she does laundry, occasionally works (during the War when “man”power was scarce), she raises her daughter. Her life doesn't have the drama needed in a book; there’s no tension to drive the story forward.
Tessa is a wonderful child. She’s bright, inquisitive, polite and loves her world (Ross Bay). She’s a delight. There’s no way around that. Her map project is amazing and unique. I could go on and on about how great a kid she is. But her story, like Flora’s doesn't have drama or purpose in the sense to drive the story forward. She’s a kid, in 1960s Victoria, living her life. She goes to school, plays with neighborhood kids, visits the cemetery (okay…that may sound weird but the Ross Bay Cemetery would be a draw for kids in that neighborhood; it’s that unique & old).
I didn't find that Flora worked hard at life. She lived it day by day, took what came her way passively in many ways but didn't make bring any changes into her life. She took what came her way. She’s a follower; not a doer.
I also thought that the author was hinting at things that were not explained or elaborated upon. A loose thread, a red herring, an attempt to bring tension into the story? Who knows....but it seemed out of place. The incidents didn’t connect with the story of this book. It’s filler, it seems.
There’s a lot of good in this book. It’s a story of two past periods of times in one area. The change in both the city and the people is interesting and could have made a darn good story. The writing is poetic and beautiful. I wasn't surprised to read that Theresa Kishkan is a poet.
For someone who knows this area, it’s a wonderful description of a wonderful city and cemetery. It had all the pieces for a wonderful story. However, I felt that the pieces didn't quite fit together cohesively enough or that there was much of a story to tell.
I enjoyed this book mainly because of the familiar setting. I would have loved to see a picture of Tessa’s map in the end of the book. That would have been awesome.

bianca23 Nov 08, 2010

This is a beautifully written, lyrical even, novel about a very strong woman facing challenges in a time when neither strong women nor the challenges women face were appreciated.

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