INTERVIEW WITH RUTH LATTA ABOUT "GRACE IN LOVE"
RKL: Last year you published Grace and the Secret Vault, a young adult novel. Is your new novel, Grace in Love, a sequel?
Ruth: Both novels centre on Grace Woodsworth MacInnis, a real-life Canadian woman who lived from 1905-1991. As a federal Member of Parliament (NDP) in the late '60s and early '70s, she was a strong advocate on women's issues, and also spoke out on economic equality and civil liberties.
Both of my novels about her can stand alone; it isn't necessary to read them in sequence to understand them. But each novel appeals to a different age group. Grace and the Secret Vault is for readers ten to fifteen. It is about the impact of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike on Grace and her family.
Grace in Love is for a more mature audience. It takes place between 1928 and 1932, when Grace was in her mid-twenties, thinking about love and career as most people in that age group are doing. The earlier novel is about Grace's budding political awareness and her family relationships. Grace in Love is about her search for true love and a meaningful career.
RKL: Where does Grace in Love take place?
Ruth: In Paris, France, and then in Canada: in Winnipeg and Ottawa. It opens in the fall of 1928 when Grace is starting a course in French Civilization, offered to foreign students by the University of Paris. She is a graduate of Ottawa Teachers' College and the University of Manitoba, and anticipates a future teaching French. As one might imagine, her year in France is an education in many ways. In the fall of 1929 she returns to Winnipeg with a broken heart to take a teaching position, but it doesn't work out. Then her father, J.S. Woodsworth (a father of democratic socialism in Canada) asked her to come to Ottawa to be his unpaid Parliamentary interne. There, she gets a sense of purpose, and also finds "the one."
RKL: Why Grace MacInnis, and why a novel?
Ruth: I am convinced that Grace wanted her life written about, because she gave many interviews (including a very long one with Peter Stursberg which is a great historical resource) and because she left her papers, including letters and diaries, to archives.
While she was in Parliament I was a student in Kingston, and interested in women's rights. When I saw her speaking on the news about issues concerning women I was impressed. Here was this sedate-looking, grandmotherly woman voicing progressive views that coincided with mine. I never met her, though, because I was up to my ears in work and domestic matters at that time, and then she retired to British Columbia.
Her difficulties with relationships in an era of changing rules, and her career dilemmas struck a chord with me, and many readers will relate to her experiences.
Why a novel? Because a co-author and I had already published a biography, Grace MacInnis: A Woman to Remember, in 2000. Also, you can better convey the essence of a personality in a novel. I admire Paula McLain's historical novels, The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin, which are the product of extensive archival research, enabling the author to get inside the characters' hearts and minds and bring them alive.
RKL: What is your next project?
Ruth: An historical novel about two sister journalists during the period 1913-1921. Francis Marion Beynon and Lillian Beynon Thomas edited the women's pages of two major Winnipeg newspapers. They were active in the suffrage movement. Without them, Manitoba would not have been the first province in Canada to enfranchise women. Then along came World War I, with devastating effects at home as well as abroad.
RKL: Why historical novels?
Ruth: I write them because I enjoy reading them, and also to answer the question: "What are you going to do with a Master's degree in History?"
Sunday, July 15, 2018
This is the link to my review of Amy Bloom's novel, White Houses.
This is the link to my review of Amy Bloom's novel, White Houses.
Sunday, July 1, 2018
I am pleased that my novel, Grace and the Secret Vault, will be the book under discussion at 2 p.m. on Monday December 10, 2018 at the Emerald Plaza Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. I look forward to hearing people's impressions and answering their questions.
I am writing to let you know that you are one of the winners of our 50+ Short Story Contest this year. Congratulations!
We will be holding an “Afternoon of Storytelling” event to celebrate the winners this fall on at the Good Companions Centre, 670 Albert St. We would be delighted if you would come to read your story “Reminiscences for Rosie ” aloud and to meet the other writers. Refreshments will be served during the event, and prizes will be awarded at the end. You are welcome to bring your family members and friends.
Please let me know as soon as is convenient for you whether you plan to attend, as well as the number of people you would likely be bringing with you.
Librarian, Program Development / Bibliothécaire, Élaboration des programmes
Ottawa Public Library / Bibliothèque publique d’Ottawa
613-580-2424, ext/poste 32151
Friday, May 25, 2018
I loved Grace in Love. It is so vivid and well written. The thing I liked best was your portrayal of the conflicts a “modern” young woman of the 1920s faced when it came to her doubts and fears about sexuality. What to say to men she became involved with? What to do about birth control? How to judge a man she loved: Willem, for example, whom I did not like. The book is also so valuable as a portrayal of the Canadian left. I love what you make of Agnes MacPhail, for example. Thanks so much for sending me a copy.
Grace in Love, and my earlier novel, Grace and the Secret Vault, are available at Singing Pebble Books, as well as from myself and the publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Grace in Love: A Novel about Grace Woodsworth
by Ruth Latta
2018, ISBN 978-1-77216-128-1, paperback 312 pages.
Based on the life of Canadian politician Grace Woodsworth MacInnis, Grace in Love is the story of a young woman’s search for love, commitment, and fulfilling work. This book is both historical fiction and a novel of ideas. It’s also the story of a budding politician and a political party. Along the road to love and commitment, Grace Woodsworth discovered her vocation: a political life in the party founded by her father, J.S. Woodsworth: the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), now known as the New Democratic Party (NDP).
The book opens with Grace’s arrival in Paris, France, on a scholarship to study French at the Sorbonne. In a series of flashbacks to Grace Woodsworth’s life growing up in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Ottawa during the roaring twenties and the great depression of the 1930s, Ruth Latta illustrates Grace’s development into a confident, diplomatic, and modern young woman who understands people, communities, and politics. Having co-authored, with Joy Trott, the biography Grace MacInnis: A Woman to Remember, Ruth Latta is an expert on her subject. In Grace in Love, she holds a magnifying glass to a crucial portion of Grace Woodsworth MacInnis’s long life. Because Grace in Love is a novel, not a biography, some fictional characters mingle with the real ones.
The first half of Grace in Love is set in France, where the reader follows Grace’s travels and adventures, including sexual harassment on a train journey from Brussels to Paris. During her student days in Paris, Grace became fluent in French by immersing herself in the language and culture of France. She went to historical locations with friends and with two of her siblings who visited her in Paris at different times, Charles at Christmas and Belva during the summer. Together, they toured cathedrals (Notre Dame and Chartres), the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Luxembourg Gardens, and famous Parisian neighbourhoods, such as Montmartre and Auteil.
At the Sorbonne, Grace made friends with both Parisians and other foreign students. After classes, Grace and her friends met in cafés to discuss socialism, religion, and love. During one of these gab sessions, Grace met Willem Van Aarden (not his real name), a South African graduate looking for an academic position. As Grace and Willem dated, going to the theatre, the opera, vaudeville performances, museums, and movies, she fell in love. Willem’s desire for an open relationship forced Grace to define her values and her goals regarding love and family. “You’re moving too fast for me,” she told him one night at the movies.
When Grace returned to Canada after graduating from the Sorbonne the following year, she left Willem behind and began teaching high-school French in Winnipeg. She was dismayed to discover that her students were indifferent to learning French. A subsequent stint teaching primary school convinced Grace that teaching wasn’t her vocation. She fell into a depression and was diagnosed with “battle fatigue.” Her family’s support and acceptance brought Grace through this dark period. Grace’s mother suggested that she write about her problems and the resulting “Apologia” expressed Grace’s fear and despair over her lost vocation.
Grace soon realized that working on her father’s election campaign was much more her cup of tea. J.S. Woodsworth’s 1930 campaign for re-election to the federal seat representing Winnipeg North Centre was successful, and Grace moved to Ottawa as her father’s parliamentary assistant. Her duties included helping rookie members of the Ginger Group write punchy speeches for the House of Commons. One of those MPs was Angus MacInnis. What began as a job quickly evolved into a romance with a much older man, and Grace and Angus reserved every evening for long walks together along the Rideau Canal. Grace in Love comes full circle with the couple travelling to Europe after their marriage, where they spend time with Grace’s Parisian friends.
In Grace in Love, the heroine’s character is realistically drawn through vivid examples of her activities and ideas. Her dedication to studying French, her love and respect for her family, her determination to communicate clearly with her fiancé, regardless of the subject, combine to form a picture in the reader’s eye of a strong, capable, smart, loving, and hard-working young woman.
Events come alive in Grace in Love because of Ruth Latta’s excellent research and the story’s high level of realism. The Estevan miners’ strike, the suppression of Communism, birth control, non-traditional families, and equal pay for women are some of the socio-political issues impacting the lives of these characters.
Grace in Love: A Novel about Grace Woodsworth is a fascinating read about an important Canadian. It’s ideal for readers who enjoy history and politics.
Grace in Love is available from Baico Publishing (www.baico.ca).
Peggy Lynn Kelly is a retired English Professor completing a scholarly work with Carole Gerson on Canadian women writers in print and broadcasting, 1914-1960.