A novel by Sheree-Lee Olson
Sailor Girl is both coming-of-age tale and love poem to the Great Lakes. Set on the cargo boats of Canada's Great Lakes in the summer of 1981, it follows the journey of Kate McLeod, a rebellious photography student looking to earn money for school.
It is also a love story, in which a middle-class girl finds a deep connection with the unruly young men and toughminded women of the lakes. Life on the water is both brutally physical and socially restrictive, and Kate kicks against the rules, both written and unwritten. A female riff on such classics as Two Years Before the Mast and Malcolm Lowry's Ultramarine, Sailor Girl is also a uniquely Canadian story, one that distills a vanishing part of our heritage.
Sailor Girl is published by Porcupine's Quill.
Sailor Girl movie director selected
Producers Markham Street Films announce director Anita Doron has signed on for a film version of Sheree-Lee Olson's Sailor Girl. The big screen adaption, with screenplay written by Johanna Schneller, will begin filming in the summer of 2014.
Sailor Girl was Bookmarked in Port Colborne at Lock 8 on the Welland Canal on October 12, 2011. Project Bookmark Canada celebrates locally-inspired writing by installing Bookmarks - a plaque bearing a selection from a notable Canadian literary work - set in that exact location.
Sheree-Lee Olson at Open Book Toronto
See articles from Sheree-Lee Olson, writer-in-residence at Open Book Toronto, March 2009. To visit, click here.
THE WORD SO FAR...
Caitlin Charman, Review in Canadian Literature #204 (Spring 2010), 50th Anniversary Interventions. (pg. 191 - 192). "With this sensitively rendered picture of teenage life, Olson has announced herself as one of the new bright lights in Canadian literature."
Elizabeth Patterson, “Sailor Girl a Rollicking Journey,” in the Halifax ChronicleHerald, 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."
Sheree-Lee Olson, “Woman of Letters” in Zoomer magazine, November 2008." It may have taken two decades to publish her first novel, but as Sheree-Lee Olson writes, wine isn’t the only thing that gets better with age."
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.”
Review: 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."