It’s not every day that one gets an email from an Order of Canada recipient* asking you to personally review their new book, a memoir (or ‘essay’ as Ms. Leith prefers to call it) about their life growing up in various parts of the world, escaping the confines of home, gaining an education, raising a family and eventually realizing her dream of being a writer and editor. Ultimately, she would obtain both, and even start her own publishing company, Linda Leith Editions, out of Montreal.
Reading through the book, it is easy to see why she prefers the word ‘essay’ (“an attempt at approximating what really happened”) over ‘memoirs’ for this is not a retrospectively detailed account of her life; rather it is more of a forward-looking overview with the focus on her working toward the goal of being a writer, similar to her favourite authors such as Doris Lessing, Samuel Beckett, Mavis Gallant and others. Ms. Leith’s passion for the literary world is evident as one reads through The Girl from Dream City, and it was that exuberant passion that maintained my interest in reading about a person I knew little of, other than her publishing company of which I am quite familiar. Ms. Leith is also a founding member of the Blue Metropolis literary festival, one of North America’s largest multi-lingual literary events.
“I wanted to be in the thick of it. Out and about, marvelling and enjoying. I love the excitement of the literary milieu. I often enjoy book launches and other literary parties, especially the ones I don’t have to organize myself. I love talking about books I’ve read and writers I admire. I love being part of a merry gang of literary activists. I love getting together and talking about what’s wrong and what’s needed. I love working with others and changing the world.”
Inspired by the life of Germaine de Staёl, a salonnière in Napoleonic France, a young Linda had none of the advantages of the wealthy and connected de Staёl, but that did not stop her from wanting to attain that type of society and influence in 20th and 21st century Montreal.
“It would take a long time for me to become a salonnière, and when I did, I was slow to realize that was what had happened. I was persistent, though, and I worked hard. I gritted my teeth, more than once, and did what had to be done. Does that sound grim? There have been tough times. My nature is optimistic, though. There has been fun, too, love, pleasure, adventure, delight. And what I was doing, almost always, was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I am a fortunate woman.”
We, in Canada, are fortunate to have such a person as Linda Leith active in the Montreal and CanLit literary scene. Her small, but vibrant publishing company produces a select amount of titles (fiction and non-fiction) highlighting Quebec’s English writers. Her very personal and highly enjoyable life essay The Girl From Dream City will doubtless be an influential book for those seeking a literary life, either as a writer or editor or publisher. Or all three.
*On November 27th, 2020, Linda Leith was awarded Officer of the Order of Canada for “connecting the country’s Anglophone and Francophone communities, and for fostering creativity and intercultural understanding through a literary festival.”
Born in Northern Ireland, Linda Leith attended schools in London, Basel, Belfast, Paris, and Montreal, graduating from the University of London, which granted her a PhD on the work of Samuel Beckett when she was twenty-four. A novelist, essayist, literary translator, and the founder of Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival and Linda Leith Publishing, she lives in Montreal.
- Publisher : University of Regina Press (April 10 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 280 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0889777853
- ISBN-13 : 978-0889777859
*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/38V9tmL Thanks!