Arthur Ellis Best Crime Novel Award Winner: A “funny, poignant, surprising” (Margaret Atwood) literary detective story centering around a murdered poet.
Who is Mary Swann?
In this novel of a writer’s revenge, an uneducated farmer’s wife delivers a paper bag filled with scraps of her poems to the publisher of a small press. Hours later, she’s dead, murdered by her husband. Fifteen years on, her book of one hundred twenty-five poems—Mary Swann’s sole claim to fame—is discovered by an American academic. And a literary odyssey begins.
Four narrators—Sarah Maloney, a feminist writer; Frederic Cruzzi, an editor; Morton Jimroy, a biographer; and Rose Hindmarch, Mary’s only friend—all have a stake in the deceased poet’s work. Their chorus of voicesopens a fascinating window on what constitutes genius. As the four descend into a quagmire of ego, jealousy, and backstabbing, Mary Swann comes back to life—in the minds and hearts of those who love and hate her most. Full of mischief, Swann is a novel about life, death, and the ideas that live on after us.
“One of the best novels I have read. . . . Deft, funny, poignant, surprising and beautifully shaped—in total command of itself and its language.” —Margaret Atwood
“A compelling work . . . exquisitely crafted.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Gently satirical . . . [Carol Shields] has a compassion for her characters that can make you ache for them.” —The New York Times
“Well-drawn characters, expert writing, and silky malice are combined in an exceptionally satisfying work of fiction.” —The Atlantic Monthly
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She studied at Hanover College, the University of Exeter in England, and the University of Ottawa. In 1957, she married Donald Shields and moved to Canada permanently. She taught at the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Manitoba, and served as chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. She wrote ten novels and three short story collections, in addition to poetry, plays, criticism, and a biography of Jane Austen. Her novel The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award; it was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Shields was further recognized with a Canada Council Major Award, two Canadian National Magazine Awards, the Canadian Authors Association Award, and countless other prizes and honors.