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In this celebrated novel, Margaret Laurence writes with grace, power, and deep compassion about Rachel Cameron, a woman struggling to come to terms with love, with death, with herself and her world.
Trapped in a milieu of deceit and pettiness – her own and that of others – Rachel longs for love, and contact with another human being who shares her rebellious spirit. Through her summer affair with Nick Kazlik, a schoolmate from earlier years, she learns at last to reach out to another person and to make herself vulnerable.
A Jest of God won the Governor General’s Award for 1966 and was released as the successful film, Rachel, Rachel. The novel stands as a poignant and singularly enduring work by one of the world’s most distinguished authors.
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'A Jest of God holds a special place for me ... I found it an almost perfect book, in that it did what it set out to do, with no gaps and no excesses. Like a pool or a well, it covers a small area but goes down deep ... plain, self-contained, elegant in form, holding within it the essentials of life' Margaret Atwood.
'Authentic and powerful. The dialogue is full of nice ironies and the narrative finely paced' TLS.
'It's not hard to see why its female readers welcomed and cherished it ... this is not a feel-good book but Rachel is portrayed with exceptional insight and subtlety which feel relevant still' Sunday Herald.
'Laurence remains, for many readers, the defining conscious of 20th-century Canadian literary fiction as well as a major influence on Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. It is easy to see why ... This stylistically sophisticated narrative [is] tender and sympathetic but never sentimental' Irish Times.
Margaret Laurence was born in Neepawa, Manitoba, in 1926. Upon graduation from Winnipeg’s United College in 1947, she took a job as a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen.
From 1950 until 1957 Laurence lived in Africa, the first two years in Somalia, the next five in Ghana, where her husband, a civil engineer, was working. She translated Somali poetry and prose during this time, and began her career as a fiction writer with stories set in Africa.
When Laurence returned to Canada in 1957, she settled in Vancouver, where she devoted herself to fiction with a Ghanaian setting: in her first novel, This Side Jordan, and in her first collection of short fiction, The Tomorrow-Tamer. Her two years in Somalia were the subject of her memoir, The Prophet’s Camel Bell.
Separating from her husband in 1962, Laurence moved to England, which became her home for a decade, the time she devoted to the creation of five books about the fictional town of Manawaka, patterned after her birthplace, and its people: The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, The Fire-Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners.
Laurence settled in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1974. She complemented her fiction with essays, book reviews, and four children’s books. Her many honours include two Governor General’s Awards for Fiction and more than a dozen honorary degrees.
Margaret Laurence died in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1987.
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