Miss Elva


244 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-679-31339-7
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by R. Gordon Moyles

R. Gordon Moyles is professor emeritus of English at the University of
Alberta. He is co-author of Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities:
British Views of Canada, 1880–1914, author of The Salvation Army and
the Public, and editor of “Improved by Cult


It is sometime during the 1960s. In a tiny fisherman’s shack, a few
miles outside the Nova Scotia town of Demerett Bridge, Miss Elva paints
the tragedy of her past on its walls and furniture. It soon becomes a
tourist attraction, and is later purchased by the government as a fine
example of naive art. But, for the painter herself and for one special
visitor in 1970, the whole is a vision of the hell they both experienced
back in 1927. And it is that hell which Malone so vividly depicts in the
main body of his novel.

With a tar pond for a front yard, a local white drunk for a father, and
a Mi’kmaq mother from a local whorehouse, Elva inhabits a small world
of labour strife, misunderstood loyalties, thwarted love affairs, family
violence, racial intolerance, and religious bigotry. Witness to a
tragedy that silences her forever, she later relives the whole sad
affair in her paintings. It is, on the whole, a rather depressing story,
redeemed by little other than Elva’s loyalty to her inner vision.
However, Malone’s brilliant creation of sympathetic
characters—especially the central character, Miss Elva—his evocation
of place, and the poignancy of the personal tragedy, make for a riveting
novel. It is an impressive first effort, ingeniously constructed and
stylistically satisfying.


Malone, Stephens Gerard., “Miss Elva,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16995.