25th Trillium Award

Trillium Testimonial: Dorothy Ellen Palmer

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This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Ontario's illustrious Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium. To celebrate this silver milestone, Open Book has asked members of the literary community to tell us what they love about their favourite award-winning Trillium title. If you're looking for a recommended read (or re-read), follow these Trillium Testimonials on Open Book: Ontario from now until the winners of the 2012 award competition are announced. Today, novelist and former Open Book Writer-in-Residence Dorothy Ellen Palmer tells us why she's chosen Jane Urquhart’s Away (McClelland & Stewart), winner of the 1993 Trillium Book Award.

Open Book:

What do you love about this book and when did you first read it?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer:

It’s nearly twenty years since I first read Jane Urquhart’s third novel, Away, published in 1993. Today’s research documents that it earned the Trillium Award, stood as a finalist for the Dublin Literary Award, and reigned on The Globe and Mail’s national bestseller list for 132 weeks, the longest of any Canadian book. But beyond critical and popular acclaim, Away has stayed with me in all the years since for more personal reasons. It offers the same lingering pleasure as when I close my eyes on the coldest day in February and recall the scent of last summer’s roses.

What I loved about this book the first time I read it in 1993 were two things. Firstly, it was an unabashedly Canadian saga, travelling grandly through vast spans of geography and three generations of women’s lives with a literary confidence that theirs was a tale worth telling. Secondly, it was a romance that debunked romance. I read it at a time when my own life was fraught with romantic change, and its over-arcing sense of loss, its tender rendering of the utter fragility of life, of how opportunities missed or taken shape the entirety of our lives is still current today, despite two intervening decades.

I had the pleasure in my years as a high school teacher to introduce many students to the story of Mary, Esther and Eileen, and like to think that many of that younger generation of readers will remember it for their own reasons, will tie it to the loves and the losses of their own lives, and be remembering it themselves some twenty years hence.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer was conceived in Hurricane Hazel, adopted at three, and taught high school for 23 years before retiring to the real work of writing. When Fenelon Falls (Coach House Press, 2010), set in cottage country in the summer of 1969, is her first novel. She is currently at work on Kerfuffle, the story of a Toronto Improv troupe making sense and nonsense of the G20 of summer 2010. Most recently, she had the pleasure to be the October Writer in Residence at Open Book and to feature in "Bastards and Bullies", an interview in January’s Herizons magazine by Niranjana Iyer, author of the amazing blog, Brown Paper.

You could be reading your top Trillium titles on a new Kobo eReader! Click here for details on our Trillium 25th Anniversary Contest.

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