The Heliconian Literary Lecture Series 2017-18

 For busy people who like to read

stack of books

The Heliconian Literary Lecture Series will run from September 2017 until June 2018.  This popular series has been described as a cross between a traditional book club and a university course without exams.  This year it will consist of two separate series consisting of nine two-hour sessions, each including a lecture, question period and refreshments.

There are authors you will be familiar with, talented newcomers with whom you will be impressed and up and coming international authors. Once again there are non-fiction titles whose content is timely and informative, and entertaining.

Subscription cost for non-members of the Heliconian Club is $200 including HST (108122466RT0001). This year, subscriptions will be purchased online through the BeMused Network (details below). Please remember we sell out early, so purchase your subscriptions as soon as possible. The information about each series is below. The description of each book is at the bottom of this email.

For first time subscribers, the doors open at 6:45pm, with the lectures beginning at 7:30, so come early to get the seats you want and to enjoy the refreshments. We will have a bookseller from Ben McNally Books, for the first Tuesday and Thursday in September and the first Tuesday and Thursday in January. They will bring several copies of each series’ books so that you will be able to purchase books for the fall, winter and spring series if you haven’t already managed to get them.


For more information please contact the Heliconian Club.

Series I – Tuesdays 

Tues, Sep 5 Alexandra Risen Alexandra Risen Unearthed Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden
Tues, Oct 24 Kevin Patterson Kevin Patterson News From the Red Desert
Tues, Nov 7 Wayne Johnston Wayne Johnston First Snow, Last Light
Tues, Jan 9 Zoe Whittall Zoe Whittall The Best Kind of People
Tues, Feb 27 Iain Reid Iain Reid I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Tues, Mar 6 Janie Chang Janie Chang Dragon Springs Road
Tues, Apr 10 Sandra Martin Rachel Cusk Outline; Transit
Tues, May 8 Anosh Irani Anosh Irani The Parcel
Tues, Jun 5 Suanne Kelmann Moshid Hamid Exit West

Series II – Thursdays

Thu, Sep 14 Gary Barwin Gary Barwin Yiddish for Pirates
Thu, Oct 26 David Adams Richards David Adams Richards Principles to Live By
Thu, Nov 23 Charlotte Gray Charlotte Gray The Promise of Canada
Thu, Jan 11 Kate Taylor Kate Taylor  Serial Monogamy
Thu, Feb 22 Deborah Campbell Deborah Campbell Disappearance in Damascus
Thu, Mar 22 Diane Schoemperlen Diane Schoemperlen This Is Not My Life
Thu, Apr 19 Sandra Martin interviews Katherena Vermette Katherena Vermette The Break
Thu, May 24 Eva Stachniak Eva Stachniak The Chosen Maiden
Thu, Jun 7 Jasmine D’Costa Jasmine D’Costa A Matter of Geography


 Alexandra Risen: Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden. Alexandra Reisen’s father dies just as she and her husband purchase a nondescript house set atop a natural gorge in the middle of the city. The garden is choked with weeds and crumbling structures. Over the years, as she undertakes the replanting, it stirs memories of her childhood when a nearby forest was her only escape from an empty home life.

Kevin Patterson: News From The Desert: The novel begins in late 2001, when everyone believes the war is already won and the Taliban defeated, then leaps late in the severely escalated conflict–into the mess, and death, and confusion. At its heart are the men and women who have come to Afghanistan to seek purpose, and adventure, and danger, by engaging in the most bewitching and treacherous of human pursuits: making war.

Wayne Johnston: First Snow, Last Light is an epic family mystery with a powerful, surprise ending, which features the return of the ever-fascinating Shelagh Fielding, from The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Ned Vatcher, only 14, ambles home from school in the chill hush that precedes the first storm of the winter of 1936 to find the house locked, the family car missing, and his parents gone without a trace.

Zoe Whittall: The Best Kind of People: George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. With exquisite emotional precision, Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.

Iain Reid: I am thinking of Ending Things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It’s always there. Always. Jake and I have a real connection, a rare and intense attachment. I’m very attracted to him. Even though he isn’t striking, not really. I’m going to meet his parents for the first time, at the same time as I’m thinking of ending things. Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

Janie Cheng: Dragon Springs Road. The novel is set in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, where, as an ancient imperial dynasty collapses, a new government struggles to life and two girls—one an Eurasian orphan, the other a daughter of privilege—are bound together in a friendship that will be tested by duty, honour and love.

Rachel Cusk: Sandra Martin will lecture on Outline and Transit. In Outline, a woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives. Transit: In the wake of family collapse, a writer moves to London with her two young sons. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavours to construct a new reality for herself and her children.

Anosh Irani: The Parcel. The novel’s astonishing heart, soul and unforgettable voice is Madhu–born a boy, but a eunuch by choice–who has spent most of her life in a close-knit clan of transgender sex workers in Kamathipura, the notorious red-light district of Bombay. Madhu identifies herself as a “hijra”–a person belonging to the third sex, neither here nor there, man nor woman.

Moshid Hamid: Sueanne Kelmann will lecture on Exit West. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.



Gary Barwin: Yiddish For Pirates. Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and nominated for the Governor-General’s Award for Literature, a hilarious, swashbuckling yet powerful tale of pirates, buried treasure and a search for the Fountain of Youth, told in the ribald, philosophical voice of a 500-year-old Jewish parrot.

David Adams Richards: Principles To Live By.  John Delano is a broken man, seemingly at the end of everything: the end of his legendary but controversial career as a police officer; the end of his sad and difficult marriage; the end of his years-long search for the truth of what happened to his missing son; the end of his fruitless quest for personal redemption; even, perhaps, the end of his life. Only one small thing keeps him going: his conviction that he has a final case to solve, centred around the disappearance years ago of a young boy placed in foster care in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Charlotte Gray: The Promise Of Canada. What does it mean to be a Canadian? What great ideas have changed our country? “Our country owes its success not to some imagined tribal singularity but to the fact that, although its thirty-five million citizens do not look, speak or pray alike, we have learned to share this land and for the most part live in neighbourly sympathy.” —Charlotte Gray

Kate Taylor: Serial Monogamy. What happens when life and ambition collide with betrayal and disease? Sharon’s comfortable existence as a novelist, wife and mother to twin daughters is shattered by a cancer diagnosis, and by her husband’s affair with a graduate student. The only relief in sight is a new writing project—an engrossing serialized novel based on the story of the 19th-century actress Nelly Ternan, the young mistress of the aging Charles Dickens.

Deborah Campbell: A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War. In the midst of an unfolding international crisis, the renowned journalist, Deborah Campbell, finds herself swept up in the mysterious disappearance of Ahlam, her guide and friend. Her frank, personal account of a journey through fear, and the triumph of friendship and courage, is as riveting as it is illuminating.

Diane Schoemperlen: This Is Not My Life. Never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer.”  This Is Not My Life is the story of the romance between Diane and Shane—how they met and fell in love, how they navigated passes and parole and the obstacles facing a long-term prisoner attempting to return to society, and how, eventually, things fell apart.

 Katherena Vermette: The Break. When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night.

Eva Stachniak: The Chosen Maiden. Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky siblings are destined for the stage. Bronia is a gifted young ballerina, but she is quickly eclipsed by her brother, Vaslav. Deemed a prodigy, Vaslav Nijinsky will grow into the greatest, and most incendiary dancer of the early 20th century. To prove herself her brother’s equal in the rigid world of ballet, Bronia will need to be more than extraordinary, defying society’s expectations of what a female dancer can and should be.

Jasmine D’Costa: A Matter of Geography begins in the early 1990’s in the heart of Bombay where young Peter and Anna live with their families ensconced in the Catholic ghetto. Their peaceful lives are shattered when Hindus destroy a mosque in the distant Indian state of Ayodhya and riots break out in Bombay, the worst the city has witnessed.