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Hetty Dorval

by Ethel Wilson
Persephone book no:

57 58 59

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
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Emily Carr 'Forest', 1940 McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario

ISBN 9781903155479

This first novel, written in 1947 by one of Canada's most distinguished novelists, is a quiet, subtle, morally complex book about a young girl's growth from innocence to maturity. Hetty Dorval seems to have behaved unconventionally, indeed immorally ('a very ugly story has followed her from Shanghai to Vancouver'). But is Frankie's adult perception of Hetty to be preferred to that of her childish innocence when she first met her? There are thus many ways to read this book. Is Hetty objectively a 'Menace'? Or is this a novel about the pernicious effect of gossip and about Donne's 'no man is an island' quoted on the frontispiece? Hetty has chosen to live outside society, but perhaps she should not be condemned for this; perhaps she should be granted some of the primaeval, elemental qualities of the British Columbia landscape which is so beautifully described.

Charlotte Moore in the Spectator described Hetty Dorval as 'a psychological journey' that is 'reminiscent of Edith Wharton or of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, but is clearer and prettier than either. Ethel Wilson sketches people and places with marvellous economy... the novel has one of the most resonant and suggestive concluding sentences I've ever come across. It's a strange little treat.' And Elena Seymenliyska in the Guardian thought that this 'charming' book 'told in a lovely sing-song voice…is immaculately written.'

Also available as an e-book from another publisher.


The endpaper is a late 1930s cotton fabric manufactured in the United States; it has a charm and a freshness appropriate for a young girl living in the country.

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