by Willa Cather
I can't tell you what a treat it has been for me to read this book. Having spent 6 years of my life in Lincoln, Nebraska I knew about Willa Cather. Or so I thought. Cather also lived in Nebraska. She attended the University of Nebraska and wrote books that took place in Nebraska and New Mexico. We were taught about her in English classes.
So imagine my shock when I asked for suggestions of books with settings in Canada and Qinsina suggested a book by Willa Cather. I called my mother who graduated from the University of Nebraska (while raising 7 children) as an English major. She was as surprised as I was that Cather had written a book set in Quebec City. Qinsina included a great website that featured a Quebec tour of the places talked about in the book. The tour was prepared by John J. Murphy of Brigham Young University. I added the tour to my Microsoft Streets and Trips map. I bookmooched a copy of the book and packed it for the trip.
I don't remember just where we were on our trip when I decided I just couldn't carry that heavy Devil in the White City around in my carry-all and put in instead, Shadows on the Rock. I only read 5-6 pages a day - very slow going. There were times when we just sat in a park or by a lake or the ocean, and even though I held my book in front of me I didn't read because I was just soaking in the environment. So I didn't finish the book before we reached Quebec City.
Shadows on the Rock is about an apothecary and his daughter, Cecile, who came to Quebec in the late 1600's with their patron, Count Frontenac. Cecile describes looking up from the front door of the apothecary to the Frontenac chateau. Below are a couple pictures we took looking up at the Frontenac Hotel from Old Town Quebec. Standing there and walking around the area gave me a real feel for Cather's descriptions.
Obviously, there are more people milling around than in the time of the book. Many of the buildings have been rebuilt on the original foundations, but a few of the buildings date back to the late 1600's. This next picture shows the little church that Cecile and her friend visited that was dedicated to the infant Jesus.
We have pictures of the basilica that Bishop Laval enlarged and also his seminary, but the quality is not so great. The basilica has had to be rebuilt after a couple of fires, but it is the first basilica in North America and Bishop Laval was the first bishop. In the book he is depicted as a kind, humble man.
One more note: Shadows on the Rock was in my big cloth carry-all the night we attended the International Fireworks Competition held at Montmorency Falls near Quebec City. We arrived a couple hours early. I thought I would read some. It poured until a few minutes after the fireworks started and my bag and everything in it was soaked, including my book. I had to use the hair dryer to try and dry it when we got back to the hotel. It still has the water stains along the bottom. Good memories!