Helen Humphreys will read from her memoir Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother in Parry Sound with The International Festival of Authors on 6 November.
Helen Humphreys will read from her memoir
Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother
in Parry Sound with The International Festival of Authors on 6 November.
Review by IFOA Parry Sound Committee member Margaret Ibey
The International Festival of Authors returns to Parry Sound this fall for the 7th year. In 2008 the touring program of the IFOA was an experiment, it is now an event that readers eagerly look forward to attending each year.
It is exciting to have on stage and in our community, an award- winning author whose work in published, respected and enjoyed around the world. Helen Humphreys joins Michael Crummey, Craig Davidson and Catherine Graham in presenting and discussing their recent and past books.
Helen Humphreys is a Canadian poet and novelist and an author of several acclaimed works of prose. She was born in Kingston-On-Thames, England, moved to Canada as a young girl and now lives in Kingston, Ontario.
She was a guest on the Parry Sound stage previously when she delighted her audience by reading from and discussing her novel Coventry (2008). Not only was Coventry a national bestseller, it was also shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award and the Canadian Authors Association Award for fiction. She is welcomed back this year to read from her 2013 work of creative non-fiction Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother.
Her first novel, Leaving Earth (1997), won the City of Toronto book award and was a New York Times notable book of the year. Her second novel, Afterimage (2000) also a New York Times notable book of the year, won the Rogers Writer’s Trust fiction prize and was nominated for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. She repeated her performance of being a New York Times notable book of the year with her third novel, The Lost Garden (2002) which also became a Canada Reads selection and a national bestseller. Wild Dogs (2004) won the Lambda Prize for fiction and went on to be a Canstage stage play in 2008. The Re-Invention of Love (2011) was longlisted for the Dublin Impac Literary Award and shortlisted for the Canadian Author’s Association Award for fiction.
Humphreys is respected for her creative non- fiction also. The Frozen Thames (2007) was a #1 national bestseller and Anthem (1999) won the Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry. Highly regarded by her peers, in 2009 she was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence.
Nocturne is not just a poignant and at times heartbreaking expression of grief for Humphreys’ beloved brother Martin whose death came at too young an age and too quickly. It is also Humphreys’ declaration about the universality and value of art and how artistic expression can allow humans to connect, share, explore, celebrate and be restored. She tells us that that the music to which her brother, a gifted pianist, dedicated his life both sustained him and gave him a rich and joyful journey through a world that was quickly collapsing around him. She affirms that the “empathy that made you such a brilliant musician also made you an extraordinary human being”. Through her wholehearted admiration of and grief for a beloved brother she teaches us in Nocturne that one is truly blest when one’s life work can “offer us some comfort at the end”. Like in her many other writings Nocturne offers lessons to be learned.