On Thursday, June 9th, Rachael Preston’s The Fishers of Paradise became the 16th Bookmark on Canada’s literary trail. The installation was unveiled by the author and Hamilton City Councillor Aidan Johnson, on Hamilton’s Desjardins Trail near the floating bridge.
The Fishers of Paradise is set among the fictional residents of Hamilton’s historic boat house community at Cootes Paradise. The novel explores Hamilton in the 1930s, the City Beautiful movement, and considers what it means to live beyond the margins. In 2013, the book won the Hamilton Arts Council’s inaugural Kerry Schooley Book Award and in 2016 it was published in a new edition by Hamilton-based publishers Wolsak and Wynn.
Author Rachael Preston is now a resident of Vancouver Island, but she spent many years in Hamilton and area, teaching writing and working on her own books, taking inspiration from Hamilton’s history and landscape. “The seed for the story came from a photograph of boathouse community kids which I first saw on a plaque along the Waterfront Trail,” says Preston. “What a lovely symmetry that this story will now have its own plaque on that same trail.”
Noelle Allen, Publisher of Wolsak and Wynn, agrees. “It places the book in the web of stories that help define our country, and physically anchors it to the land that inspired the novel. We know this Bookmark will help people connect story to place in a particularly wonderful way.”
Project Bookmark Canada founder Miranda Hill says that connections and co-operation were what brought The Fishers of Paradise Bookmark to Hamilton. “We couldn’t have created this Hamilton Bookmark without the enthusiastic participation from the City of Hamilton, The Hamilton Public Library and Wolsak and Wynn,” says Hill.
Among the local champions for the Bookmark was Councillor Aidan Johnson. “Rachael Preston is a great artist,” says Johnson. “I had the privilege of learning from Rachael at her outstanding writing seminar at Hamilton's Grit Lit Festival this year. The participants reaped a deep spiritual reward. The Fishers of Paradise is a most powerful evocation of Hamilton in our literature. Like Cootes itself, the book is deep, romantic, and beautiful -- a primal site. It is an honour to sponsor its Bookmark.”
The Hamilton Public Library is one of the many places where members of the public can pick up a copy of The Fishers of Paradise, and on June 10th at 8 p.m. the Central Branch will host Rachael Preston for a reading from the novel. Says Paul Takala, HPL Chief Librarian and Chief Executive Officer, “Hamilton Public Library is proud to partner with Project Bookmark Canada to celebrate our country’s talented authors, including Rachael Preston, who make Canada part of their stories – a truly wonderful cultural gift.”
The Fishers of Paradise is actually the second of two Hamilton stops on Canada’s literary trail. A Bookmark for “Giants,” a poem by Hamilton poet John Terpstra, can be found in Sam Lawrence Park.
“Hamilton is a city with a lot of stories, and it’s also home to the head office for this national celebration of Canada’s literature,” says Hill. “I encourage Hamiltonians to go out and take a look at their Bookmarks – and I urge other Canadians to come and take a look at Hamilton’s markers. Read your city, and read the country. There are so many stories set in this land.”