I picked up Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder because I was looking for some running inspiration. I’m not sure if it did the trick – I spent most of the afternoon on the couch reading! I assumed Girl Runner was going to be an inspirational running story. I was wrong. It is so much more than that.
I thought Girl Runner was going to be a simple story set in the 1920s about a girl who was born to run and had to fight her way to gain the right to race, recognition and fame. You know, passion driving her forward every step of the way. And there is some of that, but Girl Runner is, in fact, a far more complex novel.
Much of the story is about being an independent woman before woman’s rights took hold. Our protagonist, Aggie, makes it to Toronto, following in her siblings footsteps, becomes an Olympic athlete and battles the subtleties of sexist morays of the first half of the 20th century when it comes to sexuality, living alone and joining a profession.
But the true brilliance of Girl Runner is in the writing and the way the story is told. Bits and pieces of Aggie’s past come to us as the octogenarian reviews her life. A little of her childhood and family life, followed by bits of her athletic sojourn, with scraps of family secrets sown along the way. Really, it was the writing and structure that made the book for me.
Who would like this book? If you think this is going to be your typical sports-based inspirational story, you couldn’t be more wrong. Girl Runner has great social history wrapped around an unraveling story. It is a book for CanLit lovers as there is something very Canadian about it and Snyder will be one of those Canadian writers I will be keeping my eye on.
P.S. Girl Runner is also published by House of Anansi Press. For me that alone seals the deal on many books.
I think this is a book for me, Tanya. Thanks!
I loved the social history in it, as well as the writing.
For some reason I thought you had already read this. 🙂
I just wanted to keep reading and reading this book. I thought the section at the end written by the author about the history of women in the Olympics was the icing on the cake. It made me want to know more about it.
Did you find that the way it was written reminded you of The Stone Angel? I just happened to read them very close together, so I couldn’t help but compare.
Glad you liked it even more than you thought you would – that’s always a good feeling!
I haven’t read The Stone Angel in a good twenty years, so the comparison didn’t come to mind immediately, but I can see it. I knew Aggie wasn’t a real person, but I love that Miss Gibb was. I can’t wait to see what else Snyder writes.
The Juliet Stories is also supposed to be good, but I haven’t read it yet…
I was reading this post thinking that this really sounded like something I should read. But then you said it was really CanLit-esque and now I can’t decide if that changes everything or I still want to read it.
There are CanLit elements – rural childhood, big city adulthood etc. It reminded me a little of the Birth House, which i believe you enjoyed. The other thing that makes it Canadian instead of American is that there is no Hollywood ending or flag waving.
OK you convinced me back to reading it ;). I LOVED The Birth House.
Ohh I’ve been meaning to read this one since for quite awhile. I’ll push it nearing the top now. thanks!
I’m really not into sports books so this probably never would have crossed my radar without your review. This story sounds much more interesting that I would have guessed!
You know there isn’t really that much about running. More about women in sport in the 1920s.
I love how you explain who will like a book- it’s so incisive but personal. Except that it always means it’s a book I’ll end up wanting to read. I have a copy of this one but was on the fence. Now going to give it a shot. Thanks!