CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Duncan, Sara Jeannette.

Markham (Ont.). Penguin Books, c1984.189pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-14-007457-0. (Penguin Short Fiction) CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

The trend to revive obscure and forgotten works by early Canadian authors brings us this interesting collection of four stories, originally published in 1903 and reprinted by the University of Toronto Press in 1979. This timely Penguin edition opens with a sensitive and provocative seven-page introduction by Rosemary Sullivan, assistant professor of English at the University of Toronto, which provides an excellent critical appraisal of the stories. Each story reflects, in a very special way, Duncan's experiences as a woman living within the constraints of conventional British India at the turn of the century. In each of the four stories the main character is a woman confronted with a challenging situation that restrains her feelings, actions and reactions and reflects the stultifying effect of a conformist society on the development and expression of passionate, independent and intellectual women.

Sara Jeannette Duncan was born and raised in Brantford, Canada West (later Ontario) in 1861. Upon graduating from normal school in Toronto and following a brief teaching career, she travelled extensively as a freelance journalist. In India, she married and settled there for the rest of her life; however, she did return to England periodically for lengthy visits. She died in England in 1922. Her work was described by leading writers of her time as "extraordinarily keen and delicate, and able." She wrote with ease and perspicacious understanding. Of the many books she wrote, two of her best-known Canadian novels are Cousin Cinderella; or a Canadian Girl in London and The Imperialist. A remarkable depth of perception and a keen sense of irony and humour pervade Duncan's writings. Her stories are both amusing and thought-provoking, as fresh and appealing today as when she first wrote them. Her love of freedom and justice for women makes her a precursor of today's feminist movements. This slim paperback volume, with an illustrated cover, belongs to the Penguin Short Fiction series. The Pool in the Desert should be considered for senior high school collections, particularly in connection with women's studies, history and sociology courses, and of course it should be in every Canadiana section.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works