"That House in Manawaka": Margaret Laurence's A Bird in the House


95 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-124-8
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor in the Faculty of General
Studies at the University of Calgary and the author of Dance of the
Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro.


This study of Margaret Laurence’s short stories, which were published
over a number of years and collected in a single volume, is one in a
series of critical monographs of individual works by significant
Canadian authors put out by ECW Press. (The series also includes
analyses of Laurence’s A Jest of God and The Diviners.) The format
includes a brief chronology of remarkable dates in Laurence’s life; a
short discussion of this work in relation to the oeuvre; a summation of
its critical reception; and a reading/interpretation of it.

If A Bird in the House has not been seen as Laurence’s greatest
literary achievement, Kertzer’s appreciation of it as both a bridging
and a singularly challenging text is very convincing. Choosing to
interpret the collection as a woman’s confessional memoir, the critic,
with clarity and careful consideration, leads the reader through general
definitions to thoughtful, close readings of each story. While he
sidesteps a feminist reading, his arguments for doing so are sensible
ones. Acknowledging that “there is no denying that Laurence is
concerned with the fate of women in a man’s world,” he explicates
the themes and genres of female development; this is a welcome and
appropriate approach to the test.

The study is free of the jargon so typical of contemporary literary
methodologies; it will be a helpful educational tool for students of
Laurence’s fiction.


Kertzer, Jon., “"That House in Manawaka": Margaret Laurence's A Bird in the House,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/12315.