The Glace Bay Miners' Museum

Patty Osborne

Another story about love between two misfits, The Glace Bay Miners' Museum (Breton Books) by Sheldon Currie, should have been called Margaret's Museum, like the highly praised movie that came out of it. If it hadn't been for our astute Geist intern, I would have passed over the book. For those of you who haven't seen the movie (I haven't either, but I always like the book version better anyway), Margaret is a young woman growing up in a coal town on Cape Breton Island. As a kid she was an outcast known as "snotface" and she still has few friends. Then Neil comes to town, a giant of a man who plays the bagpipes and, as Margaret says, "didn't want to put up with stuff." Neil goes to work in the mine and, along with Margaret's brother Ian, helps to organize a strike. He also encourages Margaret to read her grandfather's scribblers where she discovers that her grandfather and his mother before him have been keeping a record of the lives of their family who came to Cape Breton to escape British domination, only to give up their freedom to the coal mines. Margaret takes over from her dying grandfather and this book is her story, told in tough everyday language. She skips from past to present as she talks about her childhood, the deaths of her father and brother, her developing relationship with Neil, and the coming strike. Her words make life in a Maritimes coal-mining town come alive and soon I was anticipating the hardships that would come with the strike. Unfortunately, anticipation is all I got. Currie wraps up his story abruptly by speeding through the strike and a major mine accident in the last eight pages. Suddenly there was no more to read. I flipped back to the middle of the book to take a look at the stills from the movie. I looked closely at each shot, searching for more story. None of the characters looked the way I pictured them, except Margaret and Neil who are on the cover of the book. Apparently in the movie Margaret gets a real wedding—in the book this got one line. But there were no photos of striking miners, although two photos of a building on fire look like something that could happen during a strike. Then a friend who had just seen Margaret's Museum came by and told me there was no strike at all in the movie. That photo was of Margaret's made-for-the-movie uncle who got drunk and burned down the company store.

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