Novelist and short story writer Kathy Page was born in the UK, and has been living in Canada since 2001.
“Kathy Page embraces and illuminates the unknown, the creepy, the odd, the other and the rest of us,” writes Amy Bloom. “Her unforgettable prose is moody, shape-shifting, provocative and always as compelling as a strong light at the end of a road you hesitate to walk down…but will. This vibrant, startlingly imaginative collection reminded me—as few collections have done in recent years—of both where stories come from, and why we need to tell them. Kathy Page is a massive talent: wise, smart, very funny and very humane.” Barbara Gowdy, writing of Paradise & Elsewhere, 2014
Page’s two most recent story collections Paradise & Elsewhere (2014), and The Two of Us (2016) were both nominated for the Giller Prize.
“Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn tells the tender and unsettling story of working-class Londoner Harry Miles and the ambitious Evelyn Hill who fall in love as the world around them goes to war. What initially begins as a familiar wartime love story morphs into a startling tale of time’s impact on love and family, as well as one’s complex search for personal meaning and truth. By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skillfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, Page has created a poignant literary work of art. The result is a timeless page-turning masterpiece.”
The Story of My Face was (2002), nominated for the Orange Prize, and Alphabet (2005, 2014), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction.
Alphabet was described as “Dark, disturbing and delicious” (January Magazine), and Guardian columnist Erwin James called it: “…a wonderful book, peculiar, intense, revealing, challenging, exhausting – and above all, riveting.”
The Find, 2010, was shortlisted for the ReLit Award. Biblioasis reissued Frankie Styne and the Silver Man in 2014, and The Story of My Face in 2019.
Complex characters and compelling narrative are Page’s trademarks, as is suspense, both psychological and existential. “One of the most compelling, unsettling novels I’ve read in ages,” Sarah Waters wrote in the Independent on Sunday, choosing The Story of My Face as one of her Books of the Year, “which should appeal to fans of classy thrillers and literary fiction alike.”
“Kathy Page reminds us what a novel can do that almost nothing else can:” Fred Stenson writes of The Find, “take elements as different as dinosaur hunting, land claims, inherited disease, and abuse of power, and link them with grace and necessity. Above all, The Find is a love story of the rarest kind: one with something new to say.”
“Page,” according to Claudia Casper in the Globe and Mail, “is at her best developing the political and personal nuances of conflict, and the complex workings of both small and larger scale power dynamics are something she uses to great effect in her work. Nothing, according to Page, is as simple as it seems, and nothing has to stay how it is.”
Kathy Page’s work is sometimes dark, but it is also profoundly optimistic. She has identified her themes as “loss, survival, and transformation: the magic by which a bad hand becomes a good chance”. She likes to do something very different with each book, whether in terms of the territory it explores or the way the material is approached, but says that all her fiction “is marked by a strong interest in human connection, in relationships, especially difficult, imperfect relationships—the kind that a therapist perhaps might not recommend, but in which many or even most of us are passionately involved.”
Page’s work often turns on questions, choices that confront her characters: to know or not to know about the future, whether or not to tell the truth, whether or not to trust someone with a secret, or to be loyal. An early novel, Frankie Styne & the Silver Man shows her playing with a suspense narrative for the first time, and sets up some of the questions about the nature of identity and relationships which have continued to animate her work: What makes a person who s/he is? How much change is possible? What can we do for and with each other? This novel’s unexpected ending signals a transition from the starker work that preceded it. “I read on, captivated and creeped-out,” novelist Caroline Adderson writes of Frankie Styne, “but this being Kathy Page, I always trusted I was heading away from a nightmare, towards a happier place.”
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Photos by Billie Woods