Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

Silver Salts

by (author) Mark Blagrave

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2008
Literary, Historical
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2008
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2008
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Lillie Dempster of Saint John, New Brunswick, often imagines herself on the big screen. It is the one fantastic escape she can afford from her tragic daily life. In the burgeoning early years of the twentieth century, Lillie is a lot like the distressed damsels from the silent films she loves. Orphaned by the Great War and the Spanish influenza at fourteen, Lillie is forced to move in with her upstairs neighbour, Frank. She finds, however, that life does not get much better as a pretty young girl who draws unwanted interest from men wherever she goes.


When a group of filmmakers come to town to shoot a movie, she finally has the opportunity to live her film fantasies. Lillie makes her debut as a silent actress, standing in for the often temperamental Norma Shearer. Finding she has a future in Hollywood, Lillie makes her way west, but as she quickly learns, life in the spotlight is not always the glamour and glitz she thought it would be. Mark Blagrave delivers a novel that illustrates life on the east coast at the turn of the century, showing the onrush and upheaval of the modern world through the emergence of unions and social unrest, the horrors of the First World War, and the wonders of ever-evolving technology.

About the author

Mark Blagrave was born and raised in Ontario, and has lived in New Brunswick. His first novel, Silver Salts, was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Novel and the 2009 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award (Atlantic Book Awards). His short stories have been published regularly in leading Canadian literary journals, including The New Quarterly and The Fiddlehead, and his plays have been produced professionally and in university theatres. Formerly a professor at Mount Allison University, Blagrave now lives in London, Ontario, where he is Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Huron College.

Mark Blagrave's profile page


  • Short-listed, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel
  • Short-listed, Margaret and John Savage First Book Award

Editorial Reviews

“Enormously entertaining novel … Blagrave skillfully weaves fact and fiction … an engaging tale of excess and exploitation.”

The Fiddlehead

“Blagrave’s book has captured a series of stills in historic Saint John and spread a fine dusting of silver on an ordinary life starring one Lillie Dempster that will not fade to black for some time in the minds of readers … Rendered in splendid detail, the city of Saint John – as much as Lillie – is the central character of the novel. Blagrave effectively creates a film montage of early Saint John – its streets and businesses, bars and bootleggers, and above all its temperament.”

New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

“True to its time, it is a slice of film life, a you-are-there invasion of cinema in its infancy.”

The Sun Times

Other titles by Mark Blagrave