When Erika Drake, of the Westmount Drakes, met and fell in love with Marc Reiser, a Jew from northern Ontario, their respective worlds were turned upside down. Set against the backdrop of the first three years of the Second World War, Earth and High Heaven captured the hearts and minds of its generation and helped to shape the more diverse and inclusive culture we have today.
Published in 1944, this classic novel was very timely; it spoke of the prejudices of its time, when Gentiles and Jews did not mix in society. Earth and High Heaven was the most successful novel of its time, winning many awards and prizes, including the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1945 (an award founded to reward books that exposed racism or explored the richness of human diversity). It was translated into eighteen languages and the film rights were purchased by Samuel Goldwyn for a remarkable $100,000. Earth and High Heaven was the first Canadian novel to top the New York Times bestseller list for the better part of a year.
About the author
Gwethalyn Graham was born January 18, 1913 in Toronto. Her father was a lawyer, her mother entertained numerous international figures of importance in their home, and both encouraged their four children to think for themselves â€” theirs was a family which set the rules rather than followed them. At the age of 25, in 1938, she won her first Governor Generalâ€™s Literary Award for Fiction for her novel Swiss Sonata. After Earth and High Heaven, Gwethalyn wrote for Saturday Night, Chatelaine, and for film and television, and completed a collection of letters with Solange Chaput Roland titled Dear Enemies (1963). Gwethalyn died in 1965.
- Winner, Governor General’s Literary Award For Fiction
“A great read.”
The Globe and Mail
“It’s startling and chastening to read of women in the 1940s who seem as liberated as any woman today.”
“Deserves to be read and discussed with other classic Canadian novels.”
Canadian Jewish News
“Earth And High Heaven, published in 1944, when its author was just 31, ripped the veil off Canada’s genteel anti-semitism with its story of a young woman from an upper crust Anglo family in Westmount who falls in love with a Jewish lawyer her father forbids her to marry.”
The Toronto Star
“The past few years have brought a number of novels that are honest, deeply felt, and extremely readable. This is a novelty. The greatest success has gone to Gwethalyn Graham's Earth and High Heaven. And that competent and passionately sincere study of race prejudice deserves all the popular approval it won.”
“A powerful testament against prejudice that is more telling for the time in which it was written.”
Victoria Times Colonist
“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.”