A Sorrowful Sanctuary, by Iona Whishaw. Book report extra #1* (2022)

A Sorrowful Sanctuary, by Iona Whishaw. Pub 2018

Book 5 in the Lane Winslow series looks at yet another slice of early 20th century Canada, bringing a national story to a local setting in King’s Cove, BC. In this story, Whishaw explores the difficult history of displaced persons and enemy aliens, especially in the form of Eastern Europeans prior to World War II. For those fleeing the oppression of the Nazi regime in the late 1930s, the promise of a new if difficult life in Canada would have seemed like a dream that sadly became a nightmare for many. The country may have been welcoming, but the citizens not so much. Xenophobia and nationalism were prominent features of society through both the pre- and post-war periods, and so refugees’ sanctuary was often the fire compared to the frying pan of their homelands.

As usual, Lane finds herself in the midst of a murder mystery and local history, working with and odds to her darling Inspector Darling. They weave together through the various cases and intrigues, including confronting the re-emergence of the fascism in their local area, nosing around their neighbours lives, and wrestling with their complex emotions for one another. Both mystery and romance nicely unfold and unravel and then resolve in the end, setting the story up nicely for book 6.

As compared to some of the earlier books, this one felt a bit thinner, especially about its complex historical context. The ending also felt a bit rushed, with all stories ended within just a few pages. I could definitely have stood a bit more explanation and extended conclusion to the various story lines. However, I’m content to just move on to the next book :-).

I was struck in the early part of the book by this passage, wherein Lane wrestles with the complexities of freedom of speech:

“…holding repellent views was not a crime. After all, that’s what Canada was supposed to be about, Lane thought, the freedom and space to think what you want.”

Here in February 2022, watching the various challenges to that Canada, those words were especially poignant.


* By mutual agreement with my book club buddy, these books and a few others that are on-deck (mostly in the category of murder mystery) won’t be included in this year’s book count except in extraordinary circumstances. These books are quick reads, more entertainment than engagement, and after a few will no longer fit in any of our diverse categories. So I don’t lose track of them, I’ll still document them here and at year-end, but ultimately most won’t “count” for the list. 

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