ONE OF Canada's leading novelists in the 1940s and '50s was Thomas Head Raddall, author, most notably, of His Majesty's Yankees (1942) and The Nymph and the Lamp (1950). Raddall has been all but forgotten; his romantic and historical fiction is outside the canons of both popular taste and academic attention for reasons examined and explained in Time and Place (Acadiensis Press, 200 pages, $16.95 paper), a new collection of essays edited by Alan R. Young.
The articles that deal with Raddall's fiction are the most interesting. Michele Lacornbe's essay on gender in Raddall's fiction examines the lives female characters lead and concludes that "the problematic central metaphor of the eternal feminine evoked in [The Nymph and the Lamp's] title goes beyond regional or historical conditions." Donna E. Smyth's ambitious essay sees Raddall's writing as a "desiring machine" Smyth argues that Raddall, as a historical fiction writer, is "both story-teller and historiographer' emplotting' the data of history." For Raddall, realism is a kind of prison, it limits and restrains the representations of desire, the creation of the desiring machine. In the romance mode, desire aspires to become real, if only for a utopian moment.
This last comment is supplemented at the conclusion of the book by John Lennox and David Staines, who show that the low generic status of the romance has worked to exclude Raddall's work from Canadian canons. In concert with contemporary theoretical attitudes and the revamping of those canons, Time and Place will do a lot to bring Raddall's work back into readers' hands.