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Edited by Rosemary Sullivan. Toronto, Oxford University Press, c1984. 395pp, paper, $10.95, ISBN 0-19-540468-8. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Sharon A. McCue

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

Rosemary Sullivan has collected an unusual and interesting anthology of stories by Canadian women. The book's historical basis is not a common one, but after reading it, one wonders why the historical perspective is not used more often as it provides a fascinating melange.

The collection encompasses a wide range of styles. The range includes the straightforward, almost blunt dialogues of Isabella Valancy Crawford; to Joy Kogawa's exquisite craftsmanship that blends the line between prose and poetry so as to make one almost indistinguishable from the other.

The twenty-nine stories are ordered according to birth dates of the authors, from the earliest (Crawford, 1850-87) to the most recent (Aritha van Herk, b.1954). They show a wonderful spirit of adventure in style and subject matter, as in Audrey Thomas's stream-of-consciousness "If One Green Bottle ..." and Gloria Sawai's The Day I Sat With Jesus on the Sundeck and a Wind Came Up and Blew my Kimono Open and He Saw My Breasts" (the title says it all).

Even more important than this intriguing tapestry of styles and themes is the common thread that runs throughout these stories. It is one that describes women's places in the world in which they live and how they try to cope with these places.

The places may be physical environments, as in Gabrielle Roy's "The Satellites"; this is the story of an Inuk woman who is sent to a southern hospital for medical treatment. After some time, she pines for her northern environment, but upon her return she discovers that she can no longer deal with it.

The places may be social niches chosen, or accepted, as are those of the two sisters 'in Alice Munro's "The Peace of Utrecht." One sister chose to marry and raise a family, leaving the other to care for an ailing, psychologically disturbed mother. Each must deal with the place she is in, how it affects her feelings and the feelings of her sister.

The places are sometimes simply those of the mind as in Joyce Marshall's ninety-one-year-old heroine Doctor Georgiana Dinsborough in "So Many Have Died." The place in her head is not quite the same as the one in which her body is functioning, but she fights, to her ultimate destruction, to reconcile the two.

Professor Sullivan has added breadth to the collection by including French Canadian authors in translation. This also adds depth to her choices in that we see common themes no matter what the original language of the story is.

While the writers are all Canadian, the locales are not. We can read Margaret Laurence's poignant "The Rain Child" set in Africa or Mavis Gallant's "The Moslem Wife" set in a hotel in southern France and see that our writers are not isolated by regional themes or bound by geography.

Not all of the stories in this collection are brilliant, sensitive, and readable but there is richness and insight. This is a book by women, about women and for women but with an appeal that should not be confined by gender. It is a book for rereading.

Sharon A. McCue, Eeyou School, Chisasibi, James Bay, Que.
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