Child #4 snuggling with Dorothy the Dog and pretending to read my very own copy of The Watch that Ends the Night. This book, BTW, will be re-released in May.
Cover copy (from McGill-Queen's University Press): George and Catherine Stewart share not only the burden of Catherine's heart disease, which could cause her death at any time, but the memory of Jerome Martell, her first husband and George's closest friend. Martel, a brilliant doctor passionately concerned with social justice, is presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp. His sudden return to Montreal precipitates the central crisis of the novel. Hugh MacLennan takes the reader into the lives of his three characters and back into the world of Montreal in the thirties, when politics could send an idealist across the world to Spain, France, Auschwitz, Russia, and China before his return home.
I think it's pretty universally accepted that Catherine Stewart is based on MacLennan's own wife and her illness. Everyone also agrees that one of the minor characters takes after William Lyon Mackenzie King, a Canadian Prime Minister.
Here's the first line: There are some stories into which the reader should be led gently, and I think this may be one of them.
Last line: Ha! You didn't really think I'd tell you! (And, no, that is NOT the last line. :) )
Simply put, Hugh MacLennan defined Canadian Literature. He's one of our favourite and greatest authors. He wrote about Canadians and Canadian politics which paved the way for other Canadian writers to do the same. (Ironically, MacLennan's first two novels, which were never published, were about his travels abroad.) MacLennan pulled off something as yet unmatched by any others: he was awarded FIVE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARDS (3 for fiction, 2 for nonficiton). The Watch that Ends the Night was his third GG.
Hugh MacLennan (1907 -1990). John Hugh MacLennan was born in Nova Scotia. He studied at Dalhousie University, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and did his doctorate at Princeton. Not just your average Joe! He taught at Lower Canada College and later became a prof at McGill University in Montreal where he taught in the English Department for THIRTY YEARS. He married Dorothy Duncan, an American writer. A couple of years after his first wife's death, he married Aline Walker.
HERE'S AN ODD COINCIDENCE: Mr. MacLennan and I both lived in Quebec at the same time AND we lived really really close to each other. I was at the Universite de Sherbrooke; he was retired in North Hatley. North Hatley is small, small, tiny. I had professors in North Hatley. I definitely did some hanging out in North Hatley. From my research for this post, I discovered that one of my Sherbrooke profs, Ronald Sutherland, was ACTUALLY FRIENDS WITH HUGH MACLENNAN. If I'd only known. I could've come up with an excuse to meet Mr. MacLennan and have all his books autographed to me, me, me. And maybe even invite him out for a coffee and some mille feuilles (my favorite dessert when I was living in Quebec). Sadly, this is one of those stories where paths could've crossed, but didn't. :(
And, lastly, I leave you with a music video of The Tragically Hip (a Canadian group of four guys from Kingston, Ontario that was massively popular in the early 80s. This is The Hip (their nickname) singing their song "Courage (for Hugh MacLennon)"
Please pop over to Patti Abbott at pattinase's blog for links to other posts for Friday's Forgotten Books. It's always a fantastic line-up.
p.s. Sorry for the incredibly long post. I really got carried away with all the tripping down memory lane!