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International Festival of Authors 2011 – The Women – Helen Humphreys & Madeleine Thien

International Festival of Authors 2011 - The Women - Helen Humphreys & Madeleine Thien The International Festival of Authors will be back in Parry Sound on Wednesday 2 November at 7:30 pm. Once again, from the Charles W. Stockey Centre stage, four internationally renowned authors will present impassioned readings from their most recent books. And, once again, we have 2 women, Helen Humphreys and Madeleine Thien, and 2 men, Patrick DeWitt and Will Ferguson.

Ladies first is the tradition, so this week I will write about the women – next week the men.

Helen Humphreys is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, one work of creative non-fiction, and five acclaimed novels. She was born in Kingston-on-Thames, England, and now lives in Kingston, Ontario. Her accolades include the City of Toronto Book Award, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Lambda Literary Award, and Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry. Her novel, Coventry, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year. The Lost Garden was a Canada Reads selection. Afterimage won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; Leaving Earth received the Toronto Book Award; and The Frozen Thames was a #1 bestseller. In 2009, Humphreys was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence. She is a very accomplished writer.

Helen Humphreys has been to Parry Sound before – twice in fact. We liked her so much that she has been invited to return, to read from her most recent novel The Reinvention of Love.

The Reinvention of Love chronicles the life of Charles Sainte-Beuve, an ambitious French journalist, and contemporary of Victor Hugo. Victor and Charles become friends – a friendship much complicated when Charles and Victor Hugo’s wife, Adèle, become lovers. Theirs was a love affair that scandalized Paris in the 1830’s – a politically tumultuous time, with duels fought in parks, and the threat of a cholera epidemic. In this society of artists and writers, Victor Hugo was making his mark. Notre Dame de Paris was published in 1831, as our story begins. Helen Humphreys has taken historical fact, and events in real lives of her “characters” and masterfully embellished their story. Her writing, as always, exquisite, and the story fascinating. We can look forward to a mesmerizing reading from The Reinvention of Love.

Madeleine Thien will present a reading from her most recent novel Dogs at the Perimeter, published this year. In 2001, the year her first book, a collection of short stories, Simple Recipes, was published Madeleine Thien was presented with an award as the most promising Canadian writer under the age of 30. Followed by a novel, Certainty, in 2006, Madeleine Thien’s books have been published internationally, and her work has been translated into 16 languages. In 2008 she spent time studying at the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and in 2010, she received the Ovid Festival Prize, awarded each year to an international writer of promise. Ellen Seligman, senior vice-president and fiction publisher at McClelland and Stewart says, “I think Madeleine is poised to break out, and I think this book has all of the ingredients.”

A woman who seems to be constantly travelling, Madeleine Thien, in fact, wrote the first draft of Dogs at the Perimeter, while living for a time in Cambodia. The novel takes place in both Cambodia and Montreal. We meet Jane, who was a child in Cambodia in 1975, before escaping to make a life in Canada. Thirty years later, when her friend and mentor, Hiroji Matsui, disappears, she follows his story to Southeast Asia.

Madeline Thien is currently living in Berlin with her partner, the writer Rawi Hage, but she has returned to Canada this fall to make the rounds of the Literary Festivals, and we are delighted to be welcoming her to Parry Sound.

Madeline Thien and Helen Humphreys will share the stage with Will Ferguson and Patrick DeWitt on Wednesday 2 November at 7:30pm at the Charles W. Stockey Centre. Watch for more about the men next week.

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