When I enrolled in the MFA, I had an idea for a novel featuring a young female character whom I was itching to develop. I dived in, spending my first year in the program working on the novel under the remarkable editorial eye of Brian Brett.
The story begins in 1967 during a unique moment in Canadian history. Set during Expo 67 and the 100th anniversary of Confederation, a young girl uncovers a family secret that unsettles her. She is forced to face the reality that she is not who she thinks she is.
This novel-in-progress uses two main devices. The first is the trope of separation. In 1967, the character is being torn from her family at the same time that the the print and television news are alive with frightening stories from Quebec of protests, bombings, and kidnappings. On July 24th, French President Charles de Gaulle stands on the balcony of Montreal’s city hall and delivers his infamous words rallying Quebec separatists, “Vive Montréal… Vive le Québec …Vive le Québec Libre!”
While the first devise is rooted in setting and very obviously parallels the separation of family to the possible separation happening in the country, the second device I use in this novel is purely technical. Like the famous protagonist in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, my ten year old protagonist is never named.
Like du Maurier, this was never my intention. I was writing the novel in the first person present tense. Fifty manuscript pages into the novel a classmate pointed out my character had no name. It would have been easy at that point to inject one, but I couldn’t settle on a name that seemed right so I continued to develop her without one. And also like du Maurier, I realised that I was relishing the technical challenge this would provide. However, that’s not reason enough. When I realised the protagonist’s struggle was to discover her own identity, I knew she could not have a name. She doesn’t know who she is yet.
To read a chapter from the novel-in-progress, click here.