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EARTH AND HIGH HEAVEN
by Gwethlyn Graham
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Macleans, August 16 2004 Macleans, August 16 2004
In a country that barely remembers its prime ministers, it's hardly surprising that one of CanLit's brightest early stars is almost forgotten. But Cormorant Books' reprint of the 1944 novel Earth and High Heaven should bring back to prominence the extraordinary Gwethalyn Graham, who published two novels in her short life (1913 to 1965) and won the Governor General's award for both. Set against the opening years of the Second World War, Earth and High Heaven is a blistering attack on bigotry. It turns on the intense psychological conflict that erupts between father and daughter after the Westmount WASP woman falls in love with a Jew from an Ontario mining town. (The plot was drawn directly from Graham's own unhappy life: after two failed marriages, her love affair with a Jewish man was derailed when Graham's father refused to meet him.) The novel was in international success, translated into 18 languages and topping American bestseller lists.
Claire Rothman, The Montreal Gazette, March 13, 2004
"Despite her political agenda, Graham knows enough to let her characters lead the way."
"Graham deftly avoids the simplistic duality of victim and oppressor. Although initally she sets up her characters as straw figures - Erica the WASP, Marc the Jew, Rene the French - she is adept at inner contradictions and complexities."
"Formally, Earth and High Heaven is a romantic comedy, with the lovers facing plenty of obstacles, including Erica's anti-Semitic father and host of seemingly insurmountable prejudices. Scratch the comedic surface, however, and serious issues show through."
"It's startling and chastening to read of women in the 1940s who seem as liberated as any woman today."
"The novel's reappearance is fortuitous. As in 1942, public rhetoric in Canada has lately been delighting in the pleasures of comparison; it's tempting, now as then, to rest on what suddenly looks like the moral high ground and save our criticism for the blatant trespasses committed elsewhere. We oughtn't to need Gwethalyn Graham to point out Canadian hypocrisy, but Earth and High Heaven is useful context at the very least, and has been absent from view for too long."
"Earth and High Heaven is imperfect and unfinished, but its return is welcome and even integral."
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