A holiday weekend made for a get-out-of-the city escape to a winter wonderland in Quebec. In mid January, we spent four days at Chateau Montebello, a Fairmont resort thatâ€™s a 90 minute drive from Montrealâ€™s international airport. Truth is, we â€œhad toâ€ go there: it was the annual meeting of Club Lac Pythonga, where we spend summers.Â
What a place to land! (Thank you, Marie HÃ©lÃ¨ne Sevigney and Becca Baughman.) Chateau Montebello, built in 1930, is the largest log structure in the world. Every time I walked into its lobby, I gasped. Itâ€™s tall and spacious, warm and inviting. A perfect place for families and friends to gather and talk on their way to or from an adventure. Let me count them: swimming, spa-ing, squash, hiking, snow-shoeing, skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, dog sledding. Equipment â€” even outerwear â€” was lent, free of charge.
I canâ€™t remember the last time I went to resort and didnâ€™t want to leave.
Back at home, I was happy to receive a story collection by Alice Adams. Iâ€™m not a fan of short fiction because — I want more! Not so with Alice Adams. The blurb on the front, from Joyce Caro Oates, captures the experience: each story is â€œlike a watercolor perfectly executed.â€ Adamsâ€™ stories feel complete at 20 or so pages; theyâ€™re unique, and memorable.
At the same time, I was devouring the first half of a doorstopper, The Manor and The Estate, by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Why is this not a mini series? It’s a delicious story, set in Poland during the latter half of the 19th century. There, a Count returns from Siberia, exiled for his part in a failed uprising against Russia. His son Lucian, also exiled, flees to Paris, but not before he lures a Jewish girl to go with him. (Squalor, illness, imprisonment follow.) That girl is one of four daughters of Calman Jacoby, a devout Jew who has taken possession of the Countâ€™s manor and land. I loved this saga because it detailed the lives of European Jews (and Gentiles) at a turning point in history. Characters question the strictures of religion, marriage, manners, domesticity. Iâ€™m looking forward to reading part two, The Estate.Â
In the meantime, I picked up Say Nothing, a True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. Iâ€™m only a few pages in. Itâ€™s very good.Â
Happy New Year, happy trails, happy reading.Â