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Jane UrquhartJane Urquhart



About the author and her works

Jane Urquhart was born in the small northern Ontario mining community of Little Long Lac (near Geraldton) and spent her later childhood and adolescence in Toronto.

She has published three books of poetry (I'm Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace, False Shuffles, and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan), four novels (The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, Away, and The Underpainter), and a collection of short fiction (Storm Glass) as well as numerous articles and reviews.

Jane Urquhart's books have been published in many countries, including Holland, France, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Australia, and The United States, and have been translated into several languages. In 1992, her novel The Whirlpool was the first Canadian book to win France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (Best Foreign Book Award). Her third novel, Away, remained on Globe & Mail's National Bestseller list for 132 weeks (the longest of any Canadian book), and won the 1994 Trillium Award. In 1994 Urquhart also received the Marian Engel
Award for an outstanding body of prose written by a Canadian woman. In 1996 she was named to France's Order of Arts and Letters as a Chevalier, and Away was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award , the world's largest literary prize for a single work of fiction. In 1997 Urquhart was asked to serve on the jury for this award.

Jane Urquhart has been Writer-in-Residence at the University of Ottawa and at Memorial University of Newfoundland and, during the winter and spring of 1997, she held the Presidential Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at the University of Toronto. She has also given readings and lectures in Canada, Britain, Europe, the
USA and Australia.

Jane Urquhart's first three novels have recently been reprinted in beautiful new trade paperback editions. In the fall of 1997, her fourth novel, The Underpainter, was published to wide critical acclaim, won the 1997 Governor General's Award, and became a fixture on the national bestseller lists.

The author lives in a Southwestern Ontario village with her husband, Tony Urquhart.

from:   ("Biography" on the author's homepage)


Governor General's Award for fiction, for The Underpainter, 1997.
Marian Engel Prize, 1994.
Trillium Book Award, 1993.
Le Prix de Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award), France, for The Whirlpool, 1992.
Les Lettres Nouvelles, Maurice Nadeau.


Author's homepage:

Interview: "A portrait of success" (about "The Underpainter", 1997): 


Jane Urquhart

Each of her novels has brought Jane Urquhart increased attention and acclaim. Saturday Night described her novel Changing Heaven as a "beautifully written book" that "throbs with the storm and wind of passion" and Janice Kulyk Keefer has called Urquhart "One of the most compelling and accomplished voices in contemporary Canadian fiction." Of her enormously successful 1993 novel, Away, Timothy Findley wrote: "It is a great romantic tale - rich in imagery and with language worthy of Emily Brontë and Thomas Hardy. Like these writers, she is unafraid of words and spends them fearlessly. The uses to which she puts her command of language are beautiful and breathtaking." 

Away earned Urquhart both national and international acclaim from critics and readers. On the Globe and Mail bestseller list for 132 weeks, a record for any Canadian book, Away has,to date, sold over 55,000 copies and was shortlisted for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her fiction has won such awards and honours as the Trillium Award, the Marian Engle Award, and France's Prix de meilleur livre étranger (Best Foreign Book Award). She was recently named a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. In addition to her four novels, The Whirlpool (1986), Changing Heaven (1990),
Away (1993), and The Underpainter (September 1997), Urquhart also has written a collection of short stories, The Storm Glass (1987) and three volumes of poetry: False Shuffles (1982); I am Walking in the Garden of his Imaginary Palace (1982) and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan (1983). 

Readers enchanted with Away are eagerly awaiting the September release of Urquhart's new novel The Underpainter. Called, "her most mature, ambitious and best work of fiction to date," The Underpainter is a novel which juxtaposes love and art, spanning decades and traversing several landscapes and locations. Urquhart's mastery of language and her ability to weave story and create memorable characters are in full force in this new novel. The Underpainter is Urquhart's fourth novel and, if anything like her previous novels, will be a rewarding and enchanting read. It is due to be released in Canada in September 1997 and later in the fall in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. 

Readers unfamiliar with Urquhart's work will discover novels that display her ability to weave rich narrative tapestries which shift between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, between real and imagined worlds, and between characters, their settings and their stories. In her first novel, The Whirlpool, a whirlpool at the base of the Niagara Falls pulls together the stories of a dying Robert Browing, a beautiful woman married to a military historian and in love with Browning's poetry, and, an undertaker's widow who lives near Niagara Falls. Changing Heaven intertwines the histories of a contemporary Brontë scholar who finds herself on the moors of England, a nineteenth-century balloonist named Arianna Ether, and the ghost of Emily Brontë. Away, set in both the twentieth and nineteenth centuries, in Ireland and in Canada, traces several generations of the O'Malley family. All three novels blend story, space, time, reality and myth into compelling, highly readable narratives by one of Canada's most exciting novelists. 

Jane Urquhart was born in Little Long Lac, Ontario and grew up in Toronto. She has been writer-in-residence at a number of Canadian universities, most recently at the University of Toronto. She lives with her husband, artist Tony Urquhart, in a small town in southwestern Ontario. 

Author profile written by Heidi LM Jacobs 



By Jane Urquhart 
Published by McLelland and Stewart 
ISBN 07701-86598 


Reviewed by Sharon Greer 

The three most short-lived traces: the trace of a bird on a branch, the trace of a fish on a pool, and the trace of a man on a woman.-- An Irish triad 

I can't say enough good things about Canadian writer Jane Urquhart's third and latest enchanting novel, Away. 

Beginning with the present day, this narrative spans three generations in an Irish family, whose ancestors came to Canada in the 1840's, as a consequence of the devastating and horrific conditions of the so-called "Famine." 

When this complex story opens up on the shores of Lake Ontario, we slowly learn of the demise of the family home due to the voracious jaws of industry. 

We are taken back and forth through time throughout the novel, as a very elaborate and layered story emerges of a family fighting for survival and the ghosts from the past that keep haunting each successive generation. 

Urquhart is a talented, exceptional writer whose prose is exquisite. I couldn't put this book down and I was amazed at how well Urquhart could blend together the historical aspects of Canadian, Irish and Native cultures so wonderfully well. 

One encounter with a Native character, Exodus Crow, exemplifies the close affiliation and history that the Irish and Native Indians share. Both cultural groups have survived the many attempts made to annihilate them. 

As Exodus states, "She told me that on the big island (Ireland) there were once forests as thick as those here in this land (Canada) but that the old kings and lords of England had cut down each tree until only bare hills were left behind.
And so I told her that some white men had seized my people's land and killed many animals for sport and abused our women. She embraced me and said that the same trouble stayed in the hearts of both our peoples." 

This compelling story, filled with wonderfully eccentric personalities, grips you right up to the conclusion involving the assassination of D'Arcy McGee. 

Jane Urquhart was born in Geraldton, Ontario, and grew up in Toronto. Her previous two novels were The Whirlpool, which won the Best Foreign Book Award and Changing Heaven.



Jane Urquhart

McClelland & Stewart Inc. 
$19.95 (Can)
ISBN #0-7710-86450-4 

With a glance at Jane Urquhart's long list of awards, its no surprise that Away is among the most splendidly written novels that I have ever read. The plot follows an Irish family's migration to Canada after having barely survived the potato famine, and their settling of the strange and brutal wilderness that was early Upper Canada. Additionally, Urquhart also describes Irish patriotism, and the destruction of Irish and Celtic culture by the English.
Although these are all noble and well written themes in the book, the most prominent one is the Celtic phrase Rian fir mhanoi (the trace of a man on a woman), and how it touches the women of this family. 

Without being repetitive, I must comment on Urquhart's writing style, as it is nothing less than pure prose. Canadian history is a largely boring subject, as are, in my opinion, most historical novels. I couldn't put Away down, and however sappy this may sound; Urquhart brought me to tears with her eloquent account of the mass injustice and death that took place during the Irish famine. 

Throughout the novel, the theme which is both largest and truly most haunting is Rian fir ah mhanoi, and how three generations of women in this family have been haunted by their first loves and in turn how that same haunting can spread and bounce and destroy tranquility, as a pebble will the peacefulness of a still pond. 

Away is so beautifully written that I must say it does not deserve simple classification as a novel, but rather as an epic poem, in tribute to the author's amazing skill with imagery and the lengths to which she goes to convey the mood and feeling of an uncharted forest, a bustling settlement, or the ache of a broken heart. Urquhart's poetic skill is not only apparent in her writing of Away, but she has also published three books of poetry as well as several other award winning novels, including, most notably, The Underpainter, for which she received the 1997 Governor General's Award. And so, while its no surprise that Away is masterfully written, it manages to also come across as a deep, lush account of the settling
of a savagely beautiful country, through the unique perspective of women. 


212ºC / DangerMedia / PO Box 28564 / Atlanta / Georgia / 30358 / USA 



Readers' Reviews of "Away"

1. Rare and Precious Gem 
By: Michelle from Mississauga, ON
Date: 2/11/00 6:23:54 PM
This book is by far one of the most beautiful and poetic books I have ever read. Jane Urquhart's characters and phrases shine with a literary purity I didn't think was possible to accomplish, and to do it so effortlessly . Some universities are reviewing this book in women's studies, but I think it should be mandatory reading in all Canadian high schools as an unsurpassable example of literature.

2. Away 
By: Tanya from Rexdale
Date: 3/6/99 7:53:37 PM
I couldn't buy into Urqhart's lyrical phantasmagoria the first three times I tried reading this book. But then I realized how essential the older mysticism of fabled Ireland was to the very consuming story that plays out in later colonial Canada. The two settings and eras blend and feed off each other with beautifully romantic images. Sounds like a chick book - but is highly recommended to all!


Laura Deibel aus Denver , 1. Februar 2000 
Reincarnation for the Irish 
Interesting book for the most part, but it is hard for me to relate with the
continuously poor and unexplainable decisions the members of this family make.
It's sad to think that a family has no control over a "family curse" that continues
through generations and a troublesome male who is reincarnated for successive
women in the family.

Excellent writing, though. I wish it had left me with a happier and more hopeful
feeling inside. 

Eine Leserin oder ein Leser aus Tennessee , 11. Januar 2000 
A Book to Savor 
I have seldom enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed Away by Jane Urquhart.
The writer's lyrical prose traverses both literal and metaphysical landscapes with
equal skill. A well-crafted plot moves the novel along briskly, intriguing characters
come vividly to life, and brief detours into ethereal regions of the spirit seem
perfectly natural. Away is a delightful read. 

Mary Jacob aus London, UK , 19. Dezember 1999 
an ethereal celtic tale 
I discovered this beautiful book whilst on holday in Canada, and became
entranced with the world of Celtic/Canadian literature.

Jane Urquart's writing transported me into the depths of Irish-Canadian femininity
with a powerful sense of tragedy, beauty and imagination. I could not put this
book down, and when I finished it I felt as though I had travelled decades and
miles beyond the 20th Century world of modern-day London.

Her capacity to relate the magnificence of 2 of the most beautiful places on earth
is truly impressive, as is her ability to weave together history and mythology.

I would recommend this book to any other dreamer who can allow themselves to
be transported into the other world. 

Sunil Patel aus Toronto, Canada , 9. Juni 1999 
Lyrical Boredom 
Jane Uquhart’s novel Away, is about Mary and Eileen, a mother, daughter duo
who have their lives changed by romantic, yet tragic encounters, at different
times. The novel begins in Ireland, where Mary is possessed by the spirit of a
sailor who dies in her arms on Rathlin island. People of the island believed that
Mary was possessed by a deamon lover, who took her away from herself,
society and her family. After staring death in the face, from the potato famine,
Mary and her realistic husband, Brian, migrated to Canada. Even though Mary
had left her country, her deamon followed and took her away, forever, leaving
behind her son Liam and her daughter, Eileen. After being told the story of her
families abandonment by Exodus Crow and former landlord, Osbert, Eileen falls
passionately in love with the fiery Irish patriot dancer, Aiden. Uquharts novel is full