That’s a novel idea

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Dorothy MacIntosh is an inspiration.

The spunky 86-year-old (soon to be 87), who has already written several books – what she calls “stories for the family” – has just had her first novel published.

The novel is called The Old Violin, published by Friesen Press.

It is quite a departure for the Lyons Brook resident who has spent countless hours, months and years, compiling treasured family stories, family history, school history from when she was a math teacher at West Pictou District High School, and an historical account of the Queens of the Fair detailing the queens of the Pictou-North Colchester Exhibition.

Dorothy laughs, “I was never great at history when I went to school,” but she certainly enjoyed compiling historical accounts.

Now, her first novel contains no sex, drugs, or rock and roll; it is straight up a work of fiction. “But, I have the violin that sort of invoked the story. Let me tell you the story …”

Dorothy took up playing the violin after she retired.

Holding it in her hands she explains: “When I got married I moved in with my husband, Jack’s, parents in West Branch; it was old farm house. There was a parlour in the back of it and in that parlour was a closet. Jack’s mother and I were cleaning it out one day. I came across this old violin in an old case; it was falling apart and might have had only one string on it, no bridge, a couple of the tuners were gone, no fine tuners, no chin rest … “

The violin belonged to Dorothy’s mother-in-law’s great grand aunt and she could not bear to part with it.

Time passed and Dorothy and her husband built a new house in Lyons Brook where she lives today; her in-laws built a house beside them two years later. At that time, the violin was gifted to Dorothy and Jack’s daughter, Linda.

In 1980 Linda got married and her mother decided to paint her former bedroom. When she came across the old violin she encouraged her husband to get it fixed up so he did. “And he took a few lessons on it.”

New life was breathed into the old violin.

By the time Dorothy retired in 1994 her husband bought a new violin, so in the fall of that year Dorothy started taking lessons with the old one. “I got pretty good and could play quite a few tunes on it.”

Then her husband got sick and Dorothy says, “I just never really got back to it.”

So, that is the story of the old violin and where the idea came from.

“I was just sitting in the living room one day looking at it and I thought, ‘Gee, if that old violin could talk imagine what it could say.’ And I always wanted to write a book.”

So, in 2018 she did just that. She began writing in January and it was finished just in time for her birthday last September. She intended it to be another book for her children and grandchildren for Christmas – until her son-in-law Jack read the manuscript and sent it off to a publisher. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The book synopsis that can be found at explains the premise behind the book: Alex Blair was a famous violinist in some of the greatest concert halls in the united States and Canada. Suddenly he removed himself from that life and lived almost as a recluse in the rural district of Guysborough County in Nova Scotia. He placed various notes about his life in his violin case which he left with his daughter-in-law before his death. The notes were discovered by his great granddaughter – Ann Blair. Ann was a high school math teacher and the story unfolds as she finds the messages left in the old case. Some of the information she found was unknown to the family and they change the course of her life.

The Old Violin is available online at Amazon, Chapters, as well as Barnes and Noble; it should soon be available in a number of local bookstores. Dorothy expects to have copies around the first of July. To purchase a copy call her at 902-485-6792.

Dorothy MacIntsh holds a copy of her first novel, The Old Violin, surrounded by other books she has written and the violin that launched the novel. (Jardine photo)