Reviews

Caitlin Charman, Review in Canadian Literature #204 (Spring 2010): “Olson explores the full complexities of female desire, from the disturbing connection Kate makes between sex and violence, to Kate’s later revelation that “Pleasure is seditious. A boy with an artful tongue can upset the social order.” Olson also provides an unflinching portrait of the working life of men and women aboard the Great Lake freighters.... T[]he novel’s stark portrayals are tempered with a gritty sense of humour, as Kate stumbles towards acceptance and self-awareness. With this sensitively rendered picture of teenage life, Olson has announced herself as one of the new bright lights in Canadian literature.”

 

Another Sailor Girl Vivian, former SIU member: “Wonderfully realistic. I sailed the great lakes for 14 years, right through the years Sheree-Lee Olson writes about in Sailor Girl. This is a realistic look at life on the Great Lakes, when women were still fighting for an equal place in the shipping industry and expected to behave in a certain way dictated by the 'Old man' and his 'Mates'. Although the story plot may be fictional, the view of life on the water is true and realistic in every detail. A great story in a real Canadian setting. Rare and wonderfully written... I swear I know that crew right down to the last woman and man! This is a journey back in time to anyone who has been there on a calm or stormy sea. A great read for anyone who likes a good salty sea story. One of those books you never want to end. Thanks for bringing back the memories.”
 
Elizabeth Patterson, “Sailor Girl a Rollicking Journey,” in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, January 4, 2009:  “It’s gritty, at times shocking but never boring. Sailor Girl, written by Sheree-Lee Olson and published by The Porcupine’s Quill, is everything that a first-time novel should be. It’s not a book for the faint-of-heart... At first glance, Sailor Girl is a coming-of-age story. But a careful read reveals a character study that resonates for many, at any age. What is it that motivates our struggle to carve our place, even when doing so gives us pain? Why can we not be at peace? Is there a path that leads to self-acceptance, and the acceptance of others? There is beauty in the way Olson describes her character's struggle to scour her way to a kind of peace, and the inexplicable comfort Kate feels when surrounded by a curtain of water and sky. Olson's first book reveals a tender talent for getting under the skin of her characters and, at the same time, a nose for a gripping narrative."
 
Alidë Kohlhaas, Women's Post Online, October 2, 2008: “As a reporter, my territory once included the eight locks of the Welland Canal that lift ships from Lake Ontario above Niagara Falls onto Lake Erie. Olson captures exceptionally well the places and the people who dwell and work there. Some of the tragedies I encountered there remain vivid. Avoidable accidents, murder-suicides, foreign sailors jumping ship to seek asylum; all are stories woven into the fabric of deceptively sleepy places along the canal. I was able to experience personally how life aboard a ship was a difficult means of making one’s way in the world. Olson’s Kate is a vivid example of how such a choice can exact a huge toll. Her fast-paced, attention-holding story is a remarkably good, honest tale.”
 
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review, September 2008: “Highly recommended. What drives a nineteen-year-old girl to find herself on a harsh ship? Sailor Girl is Kate McLeod's story of her time on a Great Lakes Grain boat. She is trying to get over a harsh relationship with a boyfriend who treated her as if she was sub human, and she finds comfort in the brutal labor that comes with being a sailor. A tale of growing up done in an unusual and unique way, Sailor Girl is highly recommended for its sweet blend of elements and original presentation.”
 
J. Kaye Oldner, Blog, October 1, 2008: “A lot of graphic sex and my favorite cuss word? I have got to read this book”
 
Lesley McAllister, “Rebel at Sea,” Now Magazine, August 5, 2008: “Olson deftly navigates the waters between literature – she’s handy with a metaphor – and popular fiction. Sailor Girl is more than a young woman’s coming-of-age story. When it wades into the glory days of Great Lakes shipping, with all its sweetwater adventure, tragedy and romance, it crests the waves.”
 
Magally Zelaya, “ She's the real deal, and she swears just like a sailor,” Winnipeg Free Press, August 3, 2008: “With her fresh setting, convincingly rendered characters, a heroine both tough and tender, and prose that evokes Canada's natural beauty, Olson gives us a winning debut that is a pleasure to read.”
Jen McNeely, She Does The City, July 18, 2008: “Sailor Girl is a gritty Canadian story that intertwines rough landscapes with hard work, gritty humour, truculent fucking and family turmoil; a turbulent story that reads poetically smooth. Olson's use of language and imagery flows beautifully while still leaving you with plenty of sting. Leave your shopping bags at home, and save the whining about your non-fat, double soy WTF latte for another occasion; this is as real as life gets.”
 
Liane Faulder, “A sailor's fight to set a new life course: Great Lakes' rough waters help sooth a turbulent soul,” in The Edmonton Journal, July 27 2008: “At first glance, Sailor Girl is a coming-of-age story. But a careful read reveals a character study that resonates for many, at any age. What is it that motivates our struggle to carve our place, even when doing so gives us pain? Why can we not be at peace? Is there a path that leads to self-acceptance, and the acceptance of others? There is beauty in the way Olson describes her character's struggle to scour her way to a kind of peace, and the inexplicable comfort Kate feels when surrounded by a curtain of water and sky. Olson's first book reveals a tender talent for getting under the skin of her characters and, at the same time, a nose for a gripping narrative.”
 
Ibi Kaslik (author, Skinny and The Angel Riots), “No Safe Harbour,” The Globe and Mail, June 28, 2008: “Olson has a deft poetic style that imprints characters and situations with casual grace and potency... a quality novelist’s insight and voice.”
 
 Andrew Armitage, “Read This,” Owen Sound Sun-Times, June 25, 2008: “Sailor Girl is as authentic as a work of fiction can be. Olson immerses her readers in the lore of the lakes, the hiss of waves, the dark walls of locks and the rough, tumbling life aboard a steamer. It is a delicious book.”
 
CBC Radio 1: Talking Books with Ian Brown, Panel Discussion, June 21, 2008: Ian Brown: “This book joins a grand tradition of life on the water.” Walter Learning: “You can taste Canada in reading this book. ... I stayed up until 3 a.m. I found this an incredibly compelling book.” Catherine Gildiner (author of Too Close to the Falls): “This really describes every middle-class woman who had any sense of adventure at 19.”
 
Katherine Govier (author of Three Views of Crystal Water): “Olson understands the appeal of tough sex and wide open water. She's got a great ear, too. Here is a book about a girl rebel written in prose that cuts to the quick.”
 
Steven Heighton (author of The Shadow Boxer): “A powerful debut that depicts the commotion and raw intensity of youth, and - without ever romanticizing - captures the romance of the sweetwater seas, those 'Great Lakes like giant footprints climbing to the centre of the continent.' Hardly a page passes without a fresh image or metaphor, a striking phrase or insight - and insight above all, because this is an honest novel. And one to savour.”
 
Leah McLaren (author of The Continuity Girl): “I'd go anywhere with Kate McLeod, the raunchy and reckless protagonist of Sheree-Lee Olson's Sailor Girl. Finally a Canlit heroine who shows us that girls can drink like fish, work like dogs, swear like sailors and still be good to the bone. Once you have clanked beer mugs with Kate, I guarantee you will take her to bed and not put her down till dawn.”

© 2014 by Sheree-Lee Olson

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