22 March 2009

Gabrielle Roy at 100

The great Gabrielle Roy was born one hundred years ago today. Recognition is, I suppose, not in keeping with the stated theme of this blog. Never suppressed, never ignored and very much remembered, she towers over nearly all of her contemporaries. A quarter-century after Roy's death, eight of her titles remain available in English translation; two posthumous collections of letters are also in print. Of course, Bonheur d'occasion dominates. A best-seller from the start, it was advertised, without exaggeration, as 'the Greatest Canadian Novel ever written'. In 1947, as The Tin Flute, it sold over 700,000 copies in the United States alone.

While Roy's popularity south of the border soon dissolved into nothing, it remained strong in Canada, despite the author's refusal to promote her books. Not surprisingly, signed copies are uncommon. And so, in honour of the day: the front free endpaper of The Tin Flute, purchased from a Montreal bookseller for... well, you can see. He's no longer in business. I don't think he much cared for books.


  1. I collect the GG English Fiction Award winners. Wonder if you know whether or not the 1947 M&S edition of The Tin Flute had 'first' printing written on the title page..or do they all state 'second printing ?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. Enjoyed looking over the "funkadelic presentation" of your collection earlier this month. I very much admire the dedication and energy.

    I've never seen a "first printing" of the M&S Tin Flute... and yet the "second" is so easily found. I suspect the former doesn't exist. Could it be that the "second printing" notice refers to the Reynold & Hitchcock edition and is the result of a split run? I'm afraid I can't offer more than speculation.

    Incidentally, François Ricard's Roy biography provides an interesting summary of the arrangement reached between M&S and Reynold & Hitchcock concerning Canadian distribution. Sadly, he makes no mention of an actual M&S edition, even when writing of the "new printing" that hit the stores in December 1947.

    I'm sorry not to have been able to provide more. I'm betting the archives at McMaster holds the answer.