I stumbled upon Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town on some reading list online – and I am so glad I did! Something about the title spoke to me, and by something I of course mean “Sunshine”, making me feel warm in my very wintery English town. Goodreads describes this book as “twelve episodes in the everyday life of the community of Mariposa” which is not wrong, but this loving little book is so much more.
Stephen Leacock takes you by the hand and shows you the town of Mariposa in rural Canada. You can picture it, he is sure, it is just like all the other Little Towns. The twelve chapters are like short stories about the people of Mariposa and those events that will develop from gossip to legend in small town communities. Leacock delightfully turns the ordinary, the banal into jokes and adventures, coating all he describes with a certain magical sparkle. As if it really was the sunshine reflecting on these sketches, the moments and scenes of life in a town. Although some aspects definitely locate the book in the early twentieth century, its analyses of characters and society are universal and timeless. The gentle, understated humour of Leacock’s voice carries satire and criticism of small town life and some of its archetypes without ever turning condescending, he does not punch down. Rather, he never takes himself too seriously either.
These twelve Sunshine Sketches can surely be dissected for their philosophical content, but they can just as well be enjoyed, as sweet, humorous depictions of a simpler life.
“A land of hope and sunshine where little towns spread their square streets and their trim maple trees beside placid lakes almost within echo of the primeval forest”