Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writer

Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writer

Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writer

Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writer


Margaret Laurence: The Making of a Writeris an engaging narrative that contains new and important findings about Laurence's life and career. This biography reveals the challenges, successes, and failures of the long apprenticeship that preceded the publication of the The Stone Angel, Laurence's first commercially successful novel.

Donez Xiques demonstrates the importance of Margaret Laurence's early work as a journalist in her development as a writer and covers her return to Canada from Africa in the late 1950s. She details the significance of Laurence's "Vancouver years" as well as the challenges of her year in London prior to settling at Elm Cottage in Buckinghamshire, when Laurence stood on the verge of success.

The Margaret Laurence known to most people is a public figure of the 1960s and 1970s; matriarchal, matronly, and accomplished. The story of her early years in the harsh setting of the Canadian Prairies during the 1930s - years of drought and the Great Depression - and of her African years has never before been chronicled with the thoroughness and vividness that Xiques provides for the reader.

Appended to this powerful new biography is a short story by Margaret Laurence that has never before been published and two other stories that have not been widely available. They indicate the range of her concerns and show a marked departure from her fiction in The Tomorrow-Tamer and Other Storiesand A Bird in the House.

Readers will benefit from the extensive research in this full and vibrant portrait of one of the most revered writers of twentieth-century Canadian literature.


Margaret Laurence in Africa. the phrase is unfamiliar; yet it was The Prophet’s Camel Bell, a remarkable travel memoir recounting a two-year residence in East Africa, that first brought Laurence’s writing to my attention the year after her death at the age of sixty. I was spending the summer of 1988 in Canada, but I had never met Laurence and was then unaware of her passing and of her enormous impact on Canadian letters during the mid-twentieth century.

I found the narrative voice in The Prophet’s Camel Bell remarkable, and then began researching her subsequent five-year sojourn in the Gold Coast (Ghana). Eager for more of her writing, I read The TomorrowTamer and Other Stories, a collection of ten stories with West African settings and characters. It was only after these “African” works that I read her “Manawaka” fiction — books with Canadian characters and settings.

Over time my engagement with Margaret Laurence’s books led me to ask: how did this woman, born Peggy Wemyss in the Canadian prairies in 1926 and raised there during the years of the Great Depression, become such an accomplished professional writer? It was the trajectory of Margaret Laurence’s apprenticeship that I wanted to discover, for it was her writing that drew me, and for which she will be remembered.

In search of clues about the period of her apprenticeship, I embarked on my research. At that time other scholars had published analyses of her . . .

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