The Globe and Mail Book Club returned with two-time Giller Prize-winner Esi Edugyan as host and a “deliciously creepy” novel by Edmonton-based author Jacqueline Baker as the next title. Edugyan chose Baker’s 2014 book The Broken Hours for Globe and Mail subscribers to read and discuss.
On Nov. 28, Baker and Edugyan appeared onstage at Vancouver’s Performance Works on Granville Island for a subscriber-exclusive event held in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest.
Edmonton-based Baker is an award-winning novelist and creative writing professor from Saskatchewan’s Sand Hills region. Her debut collection, A Hard Witching and Other Stories, was published in 2003 and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The Broken Hours is her most recent novel. Read one of her short stories in this excerpt from A Hard Witching and Other Stories.
Edugyan, based outside Victoria, is only the third person to win the Giller Prize twice; she won it in 2011 for Half-Blood Blues – which was also shortlisted for the Booker, the Writers’ Trust and the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Her 2018 win for Washington Black marks the first time anyone has received the Giller for back-to-back books.
Week 1: When an author inhabits another author’s world
Russell Smith kicks off the conversation with a look at books that fictionalize the life of another author. The Broken Hours “calls itself ‘a novel of H.P. Lovecraft,’ but that ‘of’ is ambiguous," Smith writes. "Does it mean ‘by’ or ‘about’? Is it a novel set in his fictitious universe – what we would now call fan fiction – or a novel about Lovecraft’s life?”
Baker says while she wanted to stay true to Lovecraft’s history, she filled in the blanks. “I took liberties. It’s a ghost story after all. I made some stuff up. But remarkably so much of it is actually true to the life of the man. It kind of made my job easy.”
What you write is fiction, correct? You’re supposed to “take liberties.” You’re expected to “make some stuff up.” Despite what many Canadian “purists” think. As if history is somehow sacred. Besides (admit it now) playing with the facts is fun!
American novelists have always done it. Authors of note have done the same thing with characters from “history” in the American “Wild West”: Richard Matheson with The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok and Loren Estleman, with This Old Bill.— Rich Mole
Week 2: The inner workings of horror
Author Andrew Pyper looks at what spectres lie at the true heart of literary horror. “Baker co-mingles the enormity of Lovecraftian cosmic horror with the intimately scaled disruptions of the Victorian-toned (if Depression-era set) ghost story, and the result is a fictional study of the different ways we externalize what makes us afraid. In fact, if measured in comparative weights of intent, The Broken Hours is less a horror novel than a novel about horror. It subtly pinches back the curtain of the form’s mechanics to reveal, in glimpses, some of the working parts behind it.”
I remember hearing Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” poem in public school one Hallowe’en.
It gave me the heebie jeebies. Then I had to read all the Edgar Allan Poe books from the library. The scariest thing for me is the thought of being buried alive.— Binky15
Week 3: The devil in the domestic details
Elizabeth Renzetti looks at the nature of haunted houses and the darkness that resides within the hearts of those inhabiting them. “Gifted ghost-story writers realize where true horror lies. What is haunted is not the walls of the house or the hotel or the sanitarium, but the living things inside them. Walls can be escaped, even if they have bloody handprints on them. The thing we can’t escape is ourselves; we bring the haunting inside, because it’s inside us.” Readers shared their thoughts on the most frightening haunted houses, in literature and in film, here.
I’ve yet to read a book whose opening paragraph is as powerful as that of The Haunting of Hill House. Many thanks to you, Ms. Renzetti, for quoting it.— Don227
This is a subject that should provoke some controversy! When I was but 13, I’d likely have nominated Dracula‘s castle. A little obvious, I know and perhaps not precisely haunted, but what else could be expected of a 13-year-old?
Now I think I’d plump for the wonderful book whose opening paragraph is quoted by Ms. Renzetti – Hill House is my nominee. Long may it frighten us all!— Don Blue
More on Jacqueline Baker
In The Broken Hours, Baker imagines – with the use of deep research – the last year of H.P. Lovecraft’s life, from the perspective of a fictional character. Arthor Crandle has fallen on hard times and accepts a job with room and board, working for a mysterious writer he has yet to meet. Then things really get weird.
Baker wrote the novel during an intense, concentrated whirlwind of inspiration in the remote log cabin where she then lived, writing sometimes 12 hours a day.
More on Esi Edugyan
Edugyan, chosen as The Globe and Mail’s 2018 artist of the year, was already an acclaimed author prior to last year’s publication of Washington Black. The novel further established her as one of the best contemporary writers of English-language fiction – not just in Canada, but in the world.
I missed the last Book Club. How do I catch up?
The inaugural Globe Book Club was hosted by Margaret Atwood, who chose Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone. You can read all our articles exploring the book’s themes here, and also watch a video of Atwood and Gowdy in conversation at our subscriber-exclusive event held at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto last May.
How does the Book Club work? Is it in person or online?
The Globe and Mail Book Club brings subscribers together online to read and talk about a great Canadian book, culminating in a live event. Esi Edugyan and Jacqueline Baker appeared onstage at Vancouver’s Performance Works on Granville Island on Nov. 28 for a subscriber-exclusive event held in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest. This is part of our Member Benefits program, which connects subscribers more closely to our journalism and our network of experts.
How do I find out about the next Book Club?
To keep up with the latest on the Book Club, sign up for our Books newsletter.
What if I missed the event?
A video of the conversation is available here.