English-Language Writing: Past and Present

You probably know that Quebec City inspired many French-language writers, but it also has a rich English-language literary heritage. Many English-speaking writers have called this city home: from Frances Brooke, who wrote North America’s first novel in 1769, to today’s award-winning writers like Neil Bissoondath. Others, like poet F.R. Scott who grew up in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood, are credited with bringing Canadian poetry into the modern era. The city is also featured in works from luminaries such as Willa Cather, H.P Lovecraft, and Margaret Atwood. Let’s discover some of these books.

The History of Emily Montague
by Frances Moore Brooke – First printed in 1769
Born in England, Frances Moore Brooke came to Quebec in the 1760s, where she penned North America’s first novel. Written as a series of letters to Britain, The History of Emily Montague documents of the early years following the British conquest.
Where the River Narrows 
by Aimee Laberge – First printed in 2003

A saga revolving around three generations that meanders from Chicoutimi to Sainte Foy via Quebec’s Montcalm district and the Ursuline convent. Where the River Narrows provides thoughtful insights about modern day Quebec.
The Golden Dog
by William Kirby – First printed in 1877
This novel stands out from the reams of Canadian historical fiction printed in the 19th century. Set in the final days of New France, the novel is centered around the struggle between a trading house and the greedy colonial authorities.
The Enemy Within
by Nalini Warriar – 
First printed in 2006
A rare example of an immigrant’s tale set in Quebec City against the backdrop of the 1995 referendum. The novel features long walks through Vieux-Quebec in which Sita, an Indian immigrant, confronts her own sense of belonging and difficult marriage.
Shadows on the Rock 
by Willa Cather – First printed in 1931
The greatest American novel about Quebec, Shadows on the Rock was named one of the 100 books of the century by the New York Public Library. This book is set in the early days of New France, on that “grey rock in the Canadian wilderness.”
The Soul of All Great Designs 
by Neil Bissoondath – First printed in 2008
Born in Trinidad, Neil Bissoondath has called Quebec City home since the 1990s. The latest book from this award-winning writer is set in Toronto around the lives of Alec and Sumintra, whose private and public lives collide and clash.
by Thomas Wharton – First printed in 2001
This book about books begins its series of stories within stories with a Colonel who comes across a destroyed bookshop during the siege of Quebec. This leads him on an adventure that takes him to London and Slovakia. Shortlisted for the GG Awards.
For Young Readers
The Quebec City Crisis 
by Roy MacGregor – First printed in 1998

Hockey and mystery collide in this book centered on the Quebec Peewee Invitational. The Screech Owls arrive in town and someone – no one knows who – begins a campaign of terror against the team.
by George Elliott Clarke – First printed in 2003 Conceived as a three-part jazz fantasia about two interracial couples in Quebec City at the end of the 20th century, Québécité is a poetic meditation on love, history, and Canadian politics from this Governor General’s Literary Award winner.

Consult our literary heritage bibliography online.