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Fiction Literary

The House on Selkirk Avenue

by (author) Irena Karafilly

Guernica Editions
Initial publish date
Mar 2017
Literary, Contemporary, Historical
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2017
    List Price

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It is autumn, 1997 and Kate Thuringer is back in her hometown to help her college-age daughter settle into her new life. A professional photographer, Kate has lived in Western Canada for nearly three decades. Before her marriage, however, she survived a turbulent year in which Québécois terrorists kidnapped a British diplomat and murdered an innocent politician. The middle-aged Kate is obsessed with the past, particularly with the memory of a poor francophone student with whom she had been involved during the historic October Crisis. Back in Montreal, she is plunged into a mid-life crisis, struggling to reconcile her romantic past and her melancholy present. The House on Selkirk Avenue is a complex novel about obsessive love, family bonds, aging, and the impact of political events on innocent people's lives.

About the author

Irena Karafilly was born in the Urals but crossed several borders while learning to walk, talk, read, and write. She has lived in five countries, most recently in Greece, where some of her plots are set. She speaks several foreign languages badly, swears perfectly in Polish and Greek, and writes in English about immigrants and other outsiders. She has been largely educated in Canada, the most generous of countries, where the lack of a high-school diploma proved to be no impediment to obtaining three university degrees. While still an undergraduate, Karafilly sold a short story to Bob Weaver at the CBC and has ever since been trying to write an international bestseller so she could devote herself full time to her writing. She has worked as a secretary, administrator, editor, businesswoman, journalist, university lecturer, and writer, publishing dozens of poems and stories, while trying to survive as a single mother. Though fame and fortune remain somewhat elusive, her work has won several literary prizes, including the National Magazine Award and the CBC Literary Award. Her short stories have been broadcast, anthologized, and published in both commercial and literary magazines, in Canada and abroad. Author of six books, Karafilly has also written book reviews and other articles, which have appeared in numerous newspapers, including the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. She currently divides her time between Canada and Greece, still looking for Home.

Irena Karafilly's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Kate Thuringer, about to turn fifty, finds herself 'reluctant to surrender to the prose of life.' Set against a vividly rendered Montreal, the collision of Kate’s past and present sends out sparks in all directions, threatening Kate’s future while at the same time illuminating the dilemma that faces many of us as we age. A terrific read.

Jane Juska

The House on Selkirk Avenue finds its heroine looking back three decades to the unresolved end of a relationship with an aspiring musician.

Montreal Gazette

What Karafilly has done is to give us a window on the emotional turmoil that questioning brings.

Ottawa Review of Books

I read The House on Selkirk Avenue at a sitting and enjoyed it hugely … brilliant opening chapters and wonderful ending. I loved the way Kate skirts around the idea of meeting Guillaume throughout the whole book … Very clever, the way the photography comes into its own. Congratulations!

Nina Bawden

A fascinating, subtle and very timely novel. -- Stephen Vizinczey

A fascinating, subtle and very timely novel … Karafilly has a painter's eye and a great talent for description, and her central character, a woman photographer with an eye for beauty in both people and places, leaves you thoroughly convinced that Montreal is the most exciting city in North America.

Stephen Vizinczey

The House on Selkirk Avenue evokes the political fervour and sizzling eroticism of Montreal during the War Measures Act. Playing with the Romeo-Juliet trope, Karafilly situates her Anglo/Franco lovers in the hothouse atmosphere of Quebec politics as the FLQ crisis unfolds. Thirty years later, her nostalgic heroine must reconcile the conflicting realities of her youthful past and her melancholy present. A rich, memorable read.

Anne Henderson

A complex and compelling story, written with great skill. The author has brought her city as well as her main character to vivid life, so that the reader can share her internal struggle while enjoying the melancholy splendors of a Montreal autumn. Karafilly has woven her story into the October Crisis of 1970, giving a new perspective to those events. I am sure that the book, when it appears, will attract much praise and many readers.

William Weintraub

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