Novelist Sharon Butala explores perserverence in the Canadian frontier with Wild Rose

Reviewed by: Eric Volmers

The origins of Sharon Butala’s newest novel, Wild Rose, seem rather noble.

It wasn’t a sudden burst of inspiration that led to the author’s first book of fiction since 2002. According to the veteran writer, who has been shortlisted for two Governor General Awards during her lengthy career, it sprang from a studious sense of obligation to the narrative she has been telling since the 1980s. What has she told? What still needs to be told?

” I asked myself, ‘What have I missed in telling the Western-Canadian story — the rural agricultural people and in particular the women’s story?” says Butala, who now lives in Calgary. “I thought I don’t think I have succeeded in telling the story about women who were like the women of my family. They suffered tremendous hardships and struggles but were never defeated by what happened to them, who never lost their dignity and who always remembered who they were and what they believed their lives stood for. I wanted to create a woman like that.”

Sophie was born. So was her 700-page life story, a sprawling tome that “nobody would publish,” Butala says with a laugh. So she concentrated on the first part of her young protagonist’s hardscrabble life, starting with her stifling upbringing in Quebec — a world run by tradition and church — and following her west, where she attempts to settle a piece of wilderness in Saskatchewan with her new husband in the 1880s.

 

This article originally appeared in The Calgary Herald. To read it in its entirety, click here.

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