A novel bursts to life

The quiet brilliance of Helen Humphreys

Perhaps for lack of a better word, Helen Humphreys, one of Canada’s most beloved writers, is generally described as a novelist. She has written more than half a dozen novels, several award-winning. Leaving Earth (1997), the story of two Depression-era women who attempt to break an aviation record, earned her a Toronto Book Award. Inspired by the life and work of Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Afterimage (2000) won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Many of her novels, including The Lost Garden, Coventry, and The Evening Chorus, unfold in Britain. They explore her trademark themes of unconventional female experience, the natural world, and love and war, which for Humphreys equals joy and grief. Her style is intimate, elegant, and unpretentious—an act of literary seduction that leaves readers wanting more.

Yet, despite her enormous success, Humphreys has...