184 pages
ISBN 0-88910-342-9
DDC C813






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an associate editor of the Canadian Book Review


Gail Scott’s first novel is set in an impoverished section of downtown Montreal known as The Main. It is October 31, 1980, the tenth anniversary of the October Crisis, and the heroine is taking a bath in her rundown flat at the Waikiki Tourist Rooms and ruminating, to the poignant strains of Janis Joplin, over the past ten years, searching for insights through which she can forge a “new heroine” for her ever-delayed novel. Self-discovery becomes her first act of creation as she obsessively anatomizes the decline of her relationship with Jon, a leader of the left. Sincerely, if unrealistically, committed to “progressive” — that is, non-possessive — loving, the couple are seen to embody the uneasy alliance that formed between feminists and male revolutionaries in the l970s; a decade later, with Jon no longer in her life, the heroine turns to her feminist roots as a source of inspiration for both her personal and artistic endeavours.

The Main, from its omnipresent graffiti to its cafes and eccentric inhabitants (including the enigmatic figures of the Black tourist and the grey woman) is brilliantly captured in Scott’s dense, rhythmic, and highly sensual prose. With its intricate circular structure, the novel keeps returning to a few isolated and seemingly inconsequential moments from the heroine’s past, but by the end of the book these have become a tapestry rich in nuance and meaning. Heroine concludes on a deliberate note of irresolution which is typical of its uncompromising rejection of easy answers throughout.



Scott, Gail, “Heroine,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34570.