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Interview With Jane Urquhart

Canadian author Jane Urquhart came to the UK this year to promote her latest novel, Sanctuary Line. In this interview, recorded in her hotel between media events, she talks about the ways in which her visual imagination drives and interacts with her writing, and how Sanctuary Line differs from her previous novels, being both more personal and more contemporary.

 

 

 

Jane Urquhart: Irish Times Interview

Santuary Line has generated particularly intense interest in Ireland, partly because both Urquhart and the family at the novel’s centre are the descendants of Irish immigrants. Today there is a great interview with Jane in the Irish Times that covers the relative dearth of novels about Irish emigration to Canada (as opposed to to America), and the delicate blend of fiction and family history that is Sanctuary Line.

THE IRISH in America is a familiar subject in fiction. Or is it? Many wonderful novels, from Alice McDermott’sCharming Billy through to Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn and Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin have explored the immigrant experience in the US. The stories of Irish families who settled in Canada, however, are still largely untold.

One such family is at the centre of Jane Urquhart’s new novel, Sanctuary Line. The book is narrated by an entomologist who has returned to Lake Erie to study the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly. Wandering through the now-deserted farmhouse where she spent her childhood summers, she finds herself thinking about the family she took for granted.

Foremost in Liz Crane’s thoughts is her cousin Amanda, a military strategist who has recently been killed in Afghanistan. Then there’s Amanda’s father, the charismatic “character” whose vivid presence holds the family together. Further back in time are the shadowy folk Liz refers to as the “great greats” – the Butler ancestors who carved the family farm out of an unforgiving landscape, and other Butlers who fled from the tyranny of tending the land and ran away to sea to become lighthouse keepers.

Emigrate to the Irish Times for the full article

Jane has also been interviewed for RTE’s premier arts show, Arena, and on TV3; click here to listen and watch, respectively.

 

Jane Urquhart On Writing Sanctuary Line

There is a great post on the Brighton Blogger’s blog today – Jane Urquhart writing about how the subject for her latest novel, Sanctuary Line, found her rather than the other way round.


One of the things that has always delighted me about writing novels is how astonished the author herself can sometimes be by the way a novel is conceived or by the way it ends. In an early novel, The Underpainter, for example, I was completely surprised and taken aback toward the conclusion of the first draft by what my male protagonist ultimately decided to do. And, yet, once I got over the shock, I realized that his act of unkindness was completely in character. It was about this time that I began to understand that I was writing about the world the way it is, not the way I want it to be, and that I would have to allow my characters to be themselves… not just an extensions of my own personality.

Once again in Sanctuary Line the end of the book was initially as much a surprise to me, the writer, as it has been for many readers. Writing is a very visual experience for me; I actually “see” what is going on while I am working. I knew that one more character would be entering the book in the final section , but the man I visualized stepping out of the car and walking down the lane was very different from the man my narrator had been building in her imagination, and different, therefore, from the man I had been expecting. This, of course, speaks to the unreliability of narrative, and especially the unrealistic and often negative fantasy dramas that we watch in our own inner theatres when we, like Liz my main character, are unhappy. Liz has just lost her beloved cousin Mandy in Afghanistan. Mandy was an officer and military strategist who was involved in a difficult love affair, and Liz, who has never met Mandy’s lover, begins to believe that he is the full personification of everything cruel, rigid, and brutal about military life. She quotes Sylvia Plath in her mind — “the brute, brute, heart of a brute like you” — and interprets his reported magnetism as the behaviour of a manipulator. In the end, she is surprised to discover that the actual man is utterly unlike her own demonized version.

Read on with the Brighton Blogger . . .

 

State of Grace: Review Of Sanctuary Line

Susan Elderkin gets the ball rolling with a wonderful review of Sanctuary Line in the Financial Times – one of a flurry in recent days. Here, dear reader, are the choicest morsels, but the full review is online.

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Urquhart is a terrific writer about place. Born and raised in Ontario, she has set all but one of her novels in this harsh northern landscape. She captures very deftly the sense of a disappearing world, created with such personal sacrifice by the first settlers. Stan’s engrossing stories of the great-greats are full of love and woe. A bookish lighthouse keeper is so enraptured by Moby-Dick that he fails to notice the shipwreck happening on the actual sea outside, and never gets over the guilt. A farmer’s son falls hopelessly in love with his young schoolteacher but only plucks up the courage to confess his love when she’s at death’s door. Urquhart handles the layers of narrative with lyrical aplomb; and in Uncle Stanley has created a character compelling and idiosyncratic enough to remain with us as he remains with Liz.

As Urquhart says of one of the great-greats’ tales: “It was the kind of story that moved steadily towards its conclusion, then paused and circled back to begin again in the manner of certain gloomy sonatas.” Sanctuary Line is just such a gloomy sonata but a beautiful, haunting one.

 

Getting Intimate With Jane Urquhart

This month sees distinguished Canadian author Jane Urquhart welcomed to the MacLehose fold with the publication of her eighth novel, Sanctuary Line.

Released on the 1st of January, Sanctuary Line has already gained plenty of attention from the book pages, but more on that later: today we’ll the author have the first word. This is an interview filmed by booklounge.ca for the Canadian release in 2010. Jane explains why she chose to write this novel in the first person, and discusses the divide between rural and urban literature in Canada – introduced by some decidedly groovy music.