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Fiction Literary

The Pool in the Desert

by (author) Sara Jeannette Duncan

introduction by Rosemary Sullivan

edited by Gillian Siddall

Broadview Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2001
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2001
    List Price

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In The Pool in the Desert, first published in 1903, Sara Jeannette Duncan explores the impact of isolation on the small British communities of Victorian India. In the four stories collected here—“The Pool in the Desert,” “A Mother in India,” “An Impossible Ideal,” and “The Hesitation of Miss Anderson”—Duncan’s women have certain freedoms living amidst the reaches of Empire, but they also must negotiate their way through a landscape dominated by the constraints of small military societies. The stories that result combine a delicacy of manners and movement that recalls Henry James, with a wit and sharp eye for small town foibles that bring Stephen Leacock to mind.

About the authors

Sara Jeannette Duncan was a Canadian author and journalist best known for The Imperialist, considered to be one of the first modern Canadian novels. Educated as a teacher, Duncan shifted to journalism, acting as a travelling writer for Canadian newspapers in addition to writing columns for The Globe and later for the Washington Post. Following her marriage to an Anglo-Indian civil servant, Duncan turned to fiction, and went on to publish more than twenty novels. Duncan died in 1922, shortly after settling in Surrey, England, with her husband.

Sara Jeannette Duncan's profile page

ROSEMARY SULLIVAN is an acclaimed biographer, poet and editor. She is the author of nine books of non-fiction, including Villa Air-Bel, which was awarded a Canadian Jewish Book Award; Labyrinth Of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession; By Heart: Elizabeth Smart—A Life and the #1 bestseller The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood, Starting Out. Her biography of Gwendolyn MacEwen, Shadow Maker, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award, the Toronto Book Award and the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography. Sullivan’s journalistic pieces have won her a National Magazine Awards silver medal and a Western Journalism first prize for travelogue; her academic honours include Killam, Trudeau and Guggenheim fellowships. She lives in Toronto, where she is a professor of English at the University of Toronto.

Rosemary Sullivan's profile page

Gillian Siddall's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Readers who enjoy Sara Jeannette Duncan’s artful insights into the manners, coterie culture, and presumptuous biases of Anglo-India will delight in the ironies of these stories. Duncan’s ‘English,’ wrapped up in their institutions and their pride, consider themselves above the ordinary here; while her watchful narrators think they can stand apart from the social emptiness and moral failings they observe, they discover, to their discomfort, that they are part of what they see—as eager for happiness, as susceptible to humiliation, as open to both judgment and understanding” — W.H. New, University of British Columbia

The Pool in the Desert represents the climate of desire that defined the New Woman, and that animated Sara Jeannette Duncan in her striving for personal and professional achievement. This new edition includes valuable background information which situates the book within the discourses of imperial-colonial politics and of feminist resistance, and as part of the vibrant international context of Canadian writing at the turn of the century.” — Misao Dean, University of Victoria

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