5 Mavis Gallant books you should read Live

The internationally acclaimed author is an undeniable master of the short story and of writing characters who are all exiles of a sort. As a Canadian expat herself, Gallant spent much of her life living in Paris, a city from which she wrote hundreds of memorable stories that explored the theme of home and away. There are 14 short fiction collections, two novels and one play to her name, but we’ve highlighted our picks for the five must-reads of the late great Mavis Gallant.

From the Fifteenth District (1979)

Selected as one of five finalists for Canada Reads 2008, From the Fifteenth District brings together nine of Gallant's short stories set in Europe near the end of the Second World War.

Featuring characters who are displaced or moving from one place to the next, Gallant writes with both humour and haunting perception. A notable story in this collection is "The Moslem Wife," the tale of an ailing marriage in a community of British expatriates living in northern Italy.

by CBC Books

Home Truths: Selected Canadian Stories (1981)

This collection of short stories is widely recognized as one of Gallant’s best. After the publication of Home Truths in 1981, she was inducted into the Order of Canada as well as received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Writing about Canadians at home and abroad with wit and compassion, she created memorable stories that probe the intricacies and motivations behind human behavior. There are a number of notable stories in this collection, some set in Geneva, Paris, Vancouver Island or small-town Quebec. In the “Linnet Muir” stories, Gallant shares insightful moments through her character by drawing from her own childhood experience growing up in Montreal. Margaret Atwood described the collection as “terrifyingly good.

by CBC Books

Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (1996)

Mavis Gallant told a friend at 15 that her goal was to live in Paris and write stories for The New Yorker. She would soon accomplish both when her first short story “Madeline’s Birthday” was published in The New Yorker on September 1, 1951. She went on to contribute over 100 stories to the literary magazine. In this large anthology of short stories, clocking in at nearly 1,000 pages, you will find 52 stories that were also published in The New Yorker. Her Collected Stories was published to acclaim in 1996 and she also received the Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts that same year.  

by CBC Books

Paris Stories (2002)

This selection of stories was edited by best-selling Canadian author Michael Ondaatje, who gathers the best of Gallant’s tales set in Europe and specifically Gallant’s longtime-home of Paris. Tackling similar themes in past work such as the lives of expatriates and natives, and the perspectives of young and old, this collection offers intimate glimpses into the city’s colourful cultures in funny and touching ways

��When beginning one of [Gallant’s] stories I feel that I must already be running along a platform, willing to leap onto a moving train….
What I adore about her, and wish to bring to my own pages, is the sheer vigor and velocity of her writing, the bombardment of detail that is always relevant, the characters who are not simply three-dimensional but 30-dimensional, addled and contradictory and hateful and endearing all at once.
(Jhumpa Lahiri)
by CBC Books

Montreal Stories (2004)

“You’re always attached to the city you were born in, even if you think you’re not,” Gallant told CBC in a 1965 television interview.

In this short story collection, Gallant takes on the city of her childhood with descriptions of  Montreal before, during and after the Second World War. Gallant brings back her semi-autobiographical character Linnet Muir through a series of interconnected stories. Muir is a teenage girl longing for freedom and struggling to find a true home. In the story “The End of the World,” a son is called to the bedside of his dying father who abandoned the family years before. The Quill & Quire calls it “a small masterpiece.” Montreal Stories was compiled by writer/editor Russell Banks.
by CBC Books

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