The Cape Breton Collection


160 pages
ISBN 0-919001-15-17





Edited by Lesley Choyce
Reviewed by Ellen Pilon

Ellen Pilon is a library assistant in the Patrick Power Library at Saint
Mary’s University in Halifax.


In the Introduction, the editor, Lesley Choyce, gives the criteria for choosing poetry or fiction for the collection. The components of the anthology have been written by Cape Bretoners within the last forty years. “Cape Bretoners” includes those born on the island but not living there, and those who do live there and have adopted the island as their home. Choyce maintains that the writings have been chosen to emphasize the human side of Cape Breton.

Of the fifteen pieces, only five have never been printed before; four are poetry, and three are excerpts from novels. The authors appear alphabetically, a brief biographical note preceding each. No dates are given for the fiction or poems included in the collection; the reader’s only guidelines are the author’s birthdate (if given) and the assurance that no work is older than forty years.

Most of the poems and some of the stories do not comply with Choyce’s terms for inclusion. Of the poems, only two express Cape Breton: “A Miner Writes a Poem” by Don Domanski and “There is a hill...” by Rita Joe. None of the other poems are worthy or relevant. Mowat’s “Show” has no reference to Cape Breton. Only the first story, “Wakeup Coaltown,” by Jeremy Akerman, is poor: it is over-written, peppered with split infinitives and misplaced commas, and it reads like a descriptive essay for a writing course. “Snapshot: The Third Drunk,” by Silver Donald Cameron, is a masterpiece, a brilliant, superbly written story that captures the essence of some aspects of Cape Breton character. “Junk,” by John E.C. MacDonald, is another excellent story, portraying the squalid life of two junk collectors in their two-room shack. “Cranberry Head,” by Ellison Robertson, offers a glimpse of childhood experiences in Cape Breton. “The Tuning of Perfection,” by Alistair MacLeod, and “Lauchie and Lisa and Rory, by Sheldon Currie, are also well-written stories portraying the uniqueness of island characters. As one would expect, Hugh MacLennan is represented with an excerpt from Each Man’s Son. On the whole, the collection does succeed in what it purports to do: it portrays the human side of Cape Breton.


“The Cape Breton Collection,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,