A great read for the holidays!
by Anne Forrest,
editor of NUACHT, Community Newsletter of St. Patrick's Society
November 2004 Vol. 17, Issue 4
Once in a while a novel grabs the reader's attention from the opening pages to long after the final words have been savoured. Such is A Place To Call Home, an historical novel by Gabriele Wills that follows the O'Shaughnessy family members for over 50 years as they cope with cholera, fires, prejudice and the many hardships of pioneer life.
Gabriele Wills, a former teacher of history and English, has written a compelling story whose feisty yet engaging heroine, Rowena O' Shaughnessy, develops into someone to whom readers can readily relate. Sibling rivalries and petty jealousies are handled with sympathetic understanding and Rowena's various love interests are depicted in a sensitive manner as she is trapped by the unyielding conventions and barriers of the rigid class system of the 1800s.
Set, for the most part, in Launston Mills (a fictional community loosely based on the writer's home town of Lindsay) there are also several vignettes of life in Toronto and Peterborough. As the family attempts to set down roots, it is faced with problems unfamiliar to today's reader but which can be appreciated nonetheless. How the family contends with these rigours while still experiencing homesickness for the lush green hills of Ireland, earns respect.
However, it is Wills' ability to create believable characters that is most impressive. No two persons are alike and each comes to life through vivid description and convincing dialogue. Some deserve contempt for their callous behaviour, but others are to be admired for their resilience of spirit. Wills cleverly weaves several real historical figures into the novel who give the story a strong sense of authenticity.
A Place To Call Home is a long but satisfying read. A novel that is so detailed yet not boring is a rare gift. It takes the reader back to that period about which too little is known. It leaves him wishing he could join Rowena and her family for a further 50 years.
Writer's Digest Magazine
A Place To Call Home is a gripping and fascinating saga about an Irish family's immigration to Canada and the building and founding of the [fictional] Ontario town called Launston Mills. Wills masterfully traces the development of the town, told through the eyes of Irish immigrant, Rowena, and her son, Keir. The historical facts were flawlessly researched, but rather than it reading like a series of facts, Wills peopled the book with vivid and very real characters whose experiences captivate the reader. .... an exceptionally well-told story. ...A Place To Call Home offers a delightful glimpse into Canada's past, told through characters who come to life and jump off the page. Very well done.
The Lindsay Daily Post, Sept. 19 & 23, 2005
and The Peterborough Examiner, Sept. 16, 2005
by Theresa Kelly, Bobcaygeon News Columnist
I read a book that I just loved so much that I read it a second time.
The superb novel gives you a feeling that you are there among the characters at that time. The book is carefully and thoroughly researched to provide a realistic portrayal of what life was like for those indomitable pioneers, from food and clothing to transportation and architecture. Getting here was definitely not half the fun!
Along with incidents typical of any pioneer community, the author incorporates real events like the riots at the mill, the devastating ague epidemic, the invasion of Orangemen from Omemee, the Peterborough Militia searching Lindsay for William Lyon Mackenzie, and the great fire of 1861. There are also great dollops of love, marriage, jealousy, illicit affairs, betrayals and revenge, and the day to day struggle to survive in the primitive backwoods of Upper Canada.