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Literary Criticism Comparative Literature

Heart of a Stranger

by (author) Margaret Laurence

introduction by Nora Stovel

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2003
Comparative Literature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2003
    List Price

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Out of print

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Between 1964 and 1975, Margaret Laurence wrote not only her Manawaka cycle, but also this collection of essays chronicling her travels and revealing how they inspired her fiction. Nora Foster Stovel's new introduction explores how Laurence's experiences in Somalia, Nigeria, Greece, Egypt, England and Scotland influenced and informed her Canadian fiction.

About the authors

Margaret Laurence was born in 1926 in Neepawa, Manitoba. She published her first novel, This Side of Jordan (one of several works to be set in Africa), in 1960. The Stone Angel, published in 1964, was her second novel. It was an immediate success, as were her four subsequent Manawaka novels: A Jest of God (which won the 1967 Governor General's Award and was later made into the film Rachel, Rachel), The Fire Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners — winner of the 1974 Governor General's Award. In 1971, Laurence was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Remembered also as a peace activist, she died in 1987.

Margaret Laurence's profile page

Nora Foster Stovel is Professor of English at the University of Alberta, where she teaches twentieth-century literature and Canadian women's fiction. She has published books and articles on Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, Margaret Drabble, Carol Shields, and Margaret Laurence, most recently Divining Margaret Laurence: A Study of Her Complete Writings.

Nora Stovel's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Nora Foster Stovel's new edition of Margaret Laurence's Heart of a Stranger is an excellent re-issue of Laurence's important collection of travel essays. Through Heart of a Stranger, Laurence's voice reaches across the decades to tell us about herself, her fiction, and the plight of a Western woman traveler in the twentieth century. This new edition of the text is a carefully documented, well-researched, and expanded version of the original." Laura Strong Davis, Margaret Laurence Revew, Vol. 13

"The essays in Heart of a Stranger cover a wide variety of topics. Generally considered as Laurence's "travel writing," the essays explore her experiences in Somalia, Nigeria, Greece, Egypt, England, Scotland, and then back to Canada. But they go far beyond travel writing, for they show, as well, how her travels influenced her novels and short stories.Because the topics and treatment vary so widely, different people may enjoy different parts of this book. I especially enjoyed Laurence's own comments at the beginning of each essay, as she looks back and analyses her own writing. The reissue of Heart of a Stranger will be welcomed by many libraries, as well as individuals." (Complete review: Donna Gamache, Prairie Fire Review of Books

"As Stovel notes, we can enjoy these essays as travelogue, as autobiography, or as a key to Laurence's fiction. While some of their commentary has inevitably become dated, they still speak in a fresh voice because Laurence always evokes her fascination with people and a sense of urgency about their needs, even when the needs are as old as the pharaohs. She never belittles her subjects or talks down to her readers, which means that her writing will always appeal to a wide readership." Jon Kertzer, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2004)

"Each essay is prefaced with Laurence's personal comments, which are a delight to read and help to shed light on many of her best-loved novels..Heart of a Stranger is much more than a collection of travelogues. Supplemented by a useful index and extensive annotations, the book is a must-have for students of Margaret Laurence's work in particular and Canadian literature in general." Debbie Feisst, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2004

"Heart of a Stranger (1976) has now been republished with new material, a very helpful annotation, and an introduction by its editor Nora Foster Stovel..The [annotated notes] will assist and enrich the experience of reading and rereading the essays. These notes span twenty-six pages: they provide publishing histories on Laurence's essays, they also record the sources of poem fragments....[Laurence] is with us again in this book thanks to Stovel's scholarship and critical vision. And the message that ran between Laurence and her best friend, Adele Wiseman, is repeated: 'Courage-Forward!' (217). I have one word to add: that's 'Bravo'!" Laura McLaughlan, Canadian Woman Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2

"I read Heart of a Stranger as soon as it was published and, while I was interested in her travel writing, I have to say her comments on each essay meant more to me. They pointed to the authorial voice which Laurence possessed and demonstrated her insight about her own work. Little did I know that the preface she wrote for the collection was not published, until now.It is fitting that this edition connects her travel writing with the rest of her work and, therefore, offers a fresh approach. As Laurence wrote in her Foreword, 'they are a record of the long journey back home.'" Anne Burke, Prairie Journal, July 2003

"[A]n absorbing travelogue of Margaret Laurence's one-woman global journey, a world spanning travel adventure which brought her new perspectives both on faraway lands such as Africa as well as her cherished home of Canada. Containing threads of autobiography and life journey, as well as fascinating views of diverse cultures, Heart of a Stranger is a most memorable and enjoyable read." Library Bookwatch

"It is a joy to be able to reread Laurence's essays about those strange lands. This new trade paperback edition continues efforts by editor Nora Foster Stovel and the University of Alberta Press to ensure that Laurence's lesser-known works are back in print and thus accessible to Canadian readers." Wendy Roy, Canadian Literature 183, Winter 2004

"Reading Heart of A Stranger, I feel as if I am travelling with her to strange places and different times, reflecting on the meaning, as well as the significance, of the experiences to me as much as to her. I am able to feel this because she creates empathy for the experiences she goes through, the people she interacts with, and the people, as well as the places, she writes about. This she achieves through literary style, for the writer we know is ever present in these literary essays." Muchugu Kiiru, Margaret Laurence Review, Vol 14, Winter 2004/2005.

Other titles by Margaret Laurence

Other titles by Nora Stovel