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Letters from the Doig River School is a collection of letters written by Charlotte Groarke in the 1950s. The story in the letters, drawings, and photos tell an immigrant’s story.

Charlotte Groarke is the grand-daughter of Emily Pearse, the half-sister of Patrick Pearse, who was executed for leading the Easter Uprising (now commonly called the Rising) in Ireland in 1916. She trained as a nurse in England married John Groarke, a teacher, after which she took up married life in London. She and her husband had four sons, including a set of triplets. They then emigrated to Canada.

Letters from Doig takes the form of a long and intimate conversation between Charlotte and her family at home. The letters recount her efforts to establish her own household on the Doig River Indian Reserve in northern B.C., where her husband had accepted a teaching post, just beyond the reach of the existing roads. There she faced many harsh realities, which included cultural isolation, the raw exigencies of life at the edge of the bush, and the many hardships suffered by her Beaver and Cree neighbours, who had been marginalized by the process of colonialization.

The book describes Charlotte’s life on the reserve, the ups and downs of family life, and her longing for home. She describes her work as a nurse and shares her observations on the opening up of the Peace River country, which was still a frontier. The last letters chronicle the family’s move to St. Bruno, Quebec. There are moments of discovery, and reflection, and many insights into the emotional rigours of immigration and the process of becoming a Canadian.

Charlotte Groarke's writingis full of immediacy. The tone of the letters is informative, confiding, and open to experience. The letters also have a poetic side, and the author finds dignity, poignancy and humour in ordinary life. All in all, the book catches the spirit of a more formal era with warmth and frankness and provides a sympathetic account of a woman’s life in a neglected period of Canadian history.

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    Loved "Letters from Doig"

    The letters are wonderful, not only in their description of a very rugged environment, but also for their pure honesty about a deeply personal experience of community, family, love and spirituality. This book left me wanting to hear all about the St. Bruno experience and beyond. Such an adventure - unimaginable with all the little ones! Thank you for preserving the history and sharing it. I loved it!


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