A new edition of the beloved and bestselling classic work of creative nonfiction
It is 1919. Joseph Cleroux, a handsome young man who escaped the Great War and the flu epidemic, is incarcerated in Kingston Penitentiary, determined that jail will not break him. Phyllis Halliday is a 17-year-old schoolgirl who finds his letter in the quarry where he is doing hard time. As “Peggy” and “Dady-Long-Legs,” they exchange a clandestine correspondence that frees them both from the confines of their lives, although the risk entailed increases as Joseph asks more and more of Phyllis and conditions inside Canada’s most notorious prison deteriorate.
Based on letters the author found in the attic of her home, The Convict Lover is a blend of historical detective work and imaginative recreation — a haunting, unforgettable journey through the world of Canada’s first and oldest penitentiary and portrait of the people who lived in its shadow, both inside and outside its walls. Played out against the backdrop of a war-scarred society, a vicious battle for penitentiary reform, and the first riot in Canada’s prison history, The Convict Lover is a story of human resilience and desire.
This edition includes a new introduction and epilogue.
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 17 books, and her work is anthologized and published internationally. Simonds’s most recent fiction is The Paradise Project, a collection of flash fiction hand-printed on an antique press with endpapers made in part from plants in her garden. The experience of producing the collection in both a digital and book-arts edition is the subject of her latest nonfiction work, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels, and the Lasting Impression of Books. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.
“A tour de force. Simonds’ prose is alluring, her historical detective work is flawless . . . what makes The Convict Lover soar off the page, though, is Simonds’ ability to probe into the psyches of real people, and to find there imaginative truth.” –Globe and Mail
“Extraordinary and luminous…the book’s themes are grand ones: the enduring power of words on a page and how communication with another human being can make the unbearable bearable.…a book about hope.” –Ottawa Citizen