Burden of Desire centres on the love triangle between bohemian Halifax south-end belle Julia Robertson, Dalhousie professor Stewart MacPherson, and young Anglican minister Peter Wentworth.
Julia keeps a diary detailing her sexual fantasies, which she has with her at the moment of the blast that was the Halifax Explosion. She hides her diary in her coat, which is subsequently donated to a clothing drive for the individuals from the north end of the city who've lost everything in the explosion. Peter discovers the diary and becomes fixated on its author, enlisting the help of his friend Stewart to find her.
Burden of Desire explores the repression and expression of sexual desire at the time of the First World War. It also offers a compelling fictional account of the impact on Halifax society of the Halifax Explosion.
Born in Montreal, ROBERT MACNEIL grew up in Halifax, attended Dalhousie University and graduated from Carleton in Ottawa. Starting as a CBC announcer, he was a journalist for forty years with Reuters News Agency, NBC News and the BBC, including twenty years as Executive Editor of the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He is the author of three other novels, including Portrait of Julia, a sequel to Burden of Desire, and three works of nonfiction. He divides his time between New York and Nova Scotia.
"Burden of Desire . . . has everything anyone in search of a good read could want: love, war, lust, ambition, pride, religion, politics, death, pathos, history, satire and irony . . ."
"Robert MacNeil's first novel is a book about heroism, Halifax and hot-blooded love . .. As far as Halifax is concerned, there isn?t a misstep in the book. MacNeil has the South End of the not-so-distant past just right -- and so much so that you want him to go on, to take those characters and their children through two or three more generations. If we?re lucky, he will."
"Burden of Desire is a novel filled with riches and alight with understanding of the small events that lead to the huge upheavals in life -- an intricate, satisfying romance."
"MacNeil proves himself a novelist of both large and subtle gifts . . . This is a rich, abundantly humane love story and games of love and death that still go on, with fatal consequences to the species . . . A perfect fusion of events and characters."
"Burden of Desire is a powerful piece of work . . . A tremendous story, its characters worthy of its grand scope, a compelling tale told with absolutely unflagging narrative drive. Don?t start to read if you plan to go out in the next couple of days."