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Ethel Wilson Biography

(1888–1980), New Statesman, Hetty Dorval, œuvre, The Innocent Traveller, Swamp Angel, Love and Salt Water

Canadian novelist, born in South Africa, brought to Vancouver as an orphan in 1898. Wilson began to publish fiction only in the 1930s, when her stories first appeared in the New Statesman; she was nearly 60 when her first novel, Hetty Dorval, appeared in 1947. The next few years saw the publication of virtually all the remainder of her slim œuvre: three further novels—The Innocent Traveller (1949), Swamp Angel (1954), and Love and Salt Water (1956)—and The Equations of Love (1952), a work made up of two novellas. Her fiction repeatedly treats the themes of mother–daughter relationships and the threats that unsuitable marriages and liaisons with men pose to women's self-fulfilment. The Innocent Traveller grew out of family reminiscences she had begun to write in the 1930s; its protagonist is first observed as a 3-year-old child determined to be noticed by a self-important Matthew Arnold at a Victorian family dinner party, and subsequently experiences virtually the whole history of Vancouver before dying as a centenarian. Swamp Angel, generally considered her finest work, centres on a woman who leaves a sterile marriage and attempts to build a new life on a lake in the interior of British Columbia. Mrs Golightly (1961) is a collection of short stories which demonstrates the versatility and technical assurance that characterize all Wilson's work.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography