4: Roughing It in the Bush

Roughing It in the Bush by Susanna Moodie

Roughing It in the Bush

Roughing It in the Bush is often cited as an early Canadian classic. At the same time, its Canadian-ness has also been questioned. For one thing, Moodie started writing about Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the 1830s, thirty-plus years before confederation (so maybe it’s not an early Canadian book, but a late British North American colonial book). As well, Susanna Moodie was an immigrant who wrote about her experiences from that perspective (so maybe she should be thought of as an English ex-pat writer, not a Canadian writer). Of course, “what does it mean to be Canadian?” is the quintessential Canadian-dilemma, so I think she qualifies on that count 😉 Really, I think she can be thought of as either—or both. Just depends on what you’re looking for.

Roughing It is an account of the middle-class Moodies’ first years in North America. Susanna and her husband John were woefully unprepared for life in the “bush,” which made for lots of good material for Susanna to write about. Although it’s supposed to be non-fiction, it seems pretty clear that the character “Susanna Moodie” is a lot ditzier than the writer Susanna Moodie was, i.e. that the stories were embellished to make them more funny and entertaining. While the writer Susanna Moodie was writing by candlelight and sending her stories and poems to magazines and newspapers (when she could afford stamps), the character “Susanna Moodie” was busy acting clueless and getting into scrapes to provide fresh material.

Which… you know… sounds a lot like a present-day memoir! Actually, my immediate reaction after I finished reading the book was that if Moodie were around today she’d be a blogger. Think about it: the book is a collection of anecdotes and poems and other ephemera, with the occasional chapter contributed by her husband or brother (guest posts!). Throw in a fish-out-of-water scenario, add a dash of hyperbole and a pinch of drama,  and voila! Recipe for a successful personal blog. And of course, she was a mother, so you might even call her the first Canadian mommyblogger 😉

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