The Pagan Nuptials of Julia and Other Stories


108 pages
ISBN 0-919688-98-5
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Linda M. Bayley

Linda M. Bayley is a freelance writer based in Sudbury, Ontario. She is
the author of Estrangement: Poems.


The Pagan Nuptials of Julia is a hard book to get into. For most of the
first story I found myself repeatedly rereading passages, often unsure
which character was speaking or what the story was trying to say. Keith
Henderson stuffs as many ideas as he can into eight-line sentences,
separating the ideas with commas, but leaving out other punctuation and
connecting words that would have made the sentence much more readable.
This is also book that requires a considerable vocabulary or ready
access to a good dictionary. Henderson seems to be one of those writers
whose way of writing obscures the why of his writing.

In last three stories, however, Henderson’s style becomes much
clearer and conveys much more passion and depth. Here he writes about
the experience of anglophones in Quebec, both before and after the
referendum and the passing of the language laws. In “The Denial,”
the narrator recounts his childhood in the Montreal of the 1950s and
looks at the way his city has changed in the intervening decades. When
he tries to compare personal histories with another anglo, he’s
deflected with the remark that “Life moves on. Got to adjust, old
man.” In “Heaven for Pyromaniacs,” the last member of an English
family still living in Quebec contemplates the one-way migration of so
many of the people she loves. In “The Costume,” the main character
buys his house during the FLQ crisis. The couple selling it are moving
to apartheid South Africa for the climate, they say, and because it is

By the end of the book, it is clear where Henderson’s heart is—in a
Quebec that includes the English, in a Canada that includes Quebec. As
with any writer, it is when his heart is fully exposed that
Henderson’s stories show the most humanity.


Henderson, Keith., “The Pagan Nuptials of Julia and Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,