by Helene Littmann,
272 pages,
ISBN: 1896951082

Post Your Opinion
First Novels - Slippery Memory
by Eva Tihanyi

Peripheries (Cormorant Books, 265 pages, $18.95 paper), by Helene Littmann, is actually three novellas linked by certain commonalities of theme and setting. All three take place in Vancouver and feature female protagonists, ranging in age from their early twenties to early thirties, trying to resolve the relationships in their lives, most notably with themselves.

In "Ground Zero", Stephanie, an art school dropout, lives with three housemates, works for a grant-funded peace education project, and is dating Duncan, a journalist. When Duncan questions Stephanie about what she wants out of life, she can't give him a satisfactory answer, sees "a grey wall", admits she doesn't know. The more he questions, the more she clings, until eventually he breaks up with her, leaving her terrified, with no idea "who she wanted to be".

In "Midsummer", Madeline is back from a year in Europe, has moved in with her friend Kelly temporarily, and has found a job in a used-clothing store. She gets involved with an ambitious journalist named Everett, who sleeps with her a few times, then refuses to return her calls. As a result, for a while she loses "her self, her picture of herself, her being in the world".

In "Pesadilla Beach", Amanda, thirty-two years old, stuck at a community college office job, is convinced that her true vocation is photography. When she's given the opportunity to photograph an anti-logging protest on Vancouver Island, she jumps at the chance. While there, she meets the much younger Cody, whom she seduces. Amanda feels her age, yearns for adventures, the freedom she had once enjoyed. Or had she ever really had it? "Who had she been?" she wonders, reflecting upon earlier versions of herself.

Although each of the three stories can be read easily on its own, the three together form an intriguing triptych, a three-panelled study of the female self as it flounders towards self-discovery. Littmann documents this floundering with uncanny precision. Her most obvious strength as a writer is her ability to discern the nuances of relationships and pin them with language that has a bull's eye accuracy. 


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us