"THAT HOUSE IN MANAWAKA": MARGARET LAURENCE'S A BIRD IN THE HOUSE
Volume 21 Number 5
Six years after her death, the books about Margaret Laurence and her books are starting to roll off the presses. Our children study her works in the way their parents studied Hemingway and Fitzgerald - as an integral part of any program in English literature. To assist students in their examination of Laurence's work, ECW Press has added two volumes to their "Canadian Fiction Studies" series.
One hesitates to suggest that Nora Stovel's treatment is the more competent of the two because she is a woman and so understands Laurence's writing as only women can, but she does appear to be more thorough than Jon Kertzer who, for example, uses a quote from Budge Wilson to make a point and then refers to Wilson as "him." My own thoughts on such matters are that if you are going to use the words of others to make your points, you might best know who the others are and how they relate to the subject. (Budge Wilson is herself a writer and longtime friend of Laurence's.)
The two books have similar tables of contents covering a chronology of Laurence's life and writing, the importance of the work being critiqued, the critical reception the work received, and a detailed reading of the text. Both books are recommended additions to collections of Canadian literature and criticism, as they would be welcomed by students working their way through what can appear to be deceptively simple text.
Such books can never substitute for a good discussion, but in the absence of such discussions, or to supplement them, educators should thank ECW for their ongoing efforts.
S.A. McLennan McCue formerly taught courses in Canadian women writers at a community college and now lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
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Young Canada Works