Through Flood and Fire

17 March 2016

Through Flood & Fire
by Anne Patton
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Michelle Shaw
$9.95 ISBN 9781550506402

As a relative newcomer to Canada, my knowledge of the history of my home province is primarily gleaned from helping my daughters’ with their homework. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to lose myself in a “first-hand” account of Saskatchewan’s history, as told through the eyes of ten-year-old Dorothy, the protagonist of Through Flood & Fire by Anne Patton.

Dorothy and her family leave England en route to the Barr Colony in Saskatchewan in 1903. That story is told in the first book in Anne Patton’s, Barr Colony adventure series, Full Speed to Canada. Through Flood & Fire picks up the family’s story in the little village of Saskatoon. Dorothy and her family are headed out across the prairies to establish a new settlement. After numerous adventures they eventually settle in the area surrounding the town of present-day Lloydminster, named after the man leading their community, The Reverend Mr Lloyd.

I loved the fact that the book is loosely based on an actual story of a young girl called Dorothy, who was “plucked from her familiar urban life in England and thrust into the rigours of wilderness survival” at the age of nine. In fact, I was almost equally entranced by the author’s background account of how she gathered the information to put the book together as I was by the story itself. Patton cleverly weaves in numerous incidents taken from actual first person accounts of the time. Reading the story, it felt as if the incidents actually happened to Dorothy and it was only when I spotted snippets from diaries in other sections of the book that I realized how she used the original accounts to fashion her own story.

Through Flood & Fire also gave insight into the very real hardships that the settlers endured, not least of which was the uncertainty of what lay ahead. The route was at times extremely dangerous and the raging wildfire that nearly engulfed them at one point brought to mind very clearly the recent wildfires that ravaged our prairie provinces in 2015. I also found it fascinating to catch a glimpse of what life was like at the beginning of the last century and compare it to the established cities, towns and highways that we live in today. It Inspired me to get out a map to see if I could trace Dorothy’s route myself!

Anne Patton is a retired teacher and well-known children’s author who has published ten books for children. She is currently working on a third book to conclude her Barr Colony adventures.


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