The Fragile Lights of Earth: Articles and Memories 1942-1970


222 pages
ISBN 0-7710-7828-5




Translated by Alan Brown
Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is a professor of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University, an associate fellow of the Simone de Beauvoir
Institute, and author of Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Home.


Gabrielle Roy, whose work has always been promptly translated, is the Quebec writer best known to English Canadians. Her usual translator is Alan Brown who, in 1974, won the first Canada Council prize for translation.

The Fragile Lights of Earth is a collection of articles written over a 30-year period. The selections form an informal autobiography, an invaluable retrospective on Roy’s career and development: from childhood in St. Boniface, to fame in Paris, to more recent joys in Charlevoix County within sight of the ebb and flow of the St. Lawrence River. These pieces expand our understanding of the Canadian mosaic and of Roy’s own roots.

In “My Manitoba Heritage,” she tells of her maternal grandparents coming from the Laurentians to homestead in Manitoba and to become a family divided between prairie and mountain. Roy’s father, a civil servant assigned to settling immigrants in Saskatchewan, brought home tales of “his” immigrants. Winnipeg was also a fertile microcosm of the world. Such a childhood bred in Roy a deep, abiding sense of the human family: “Either there are no more foreigners in the world,” she concludes, “or we are foreigners all.”

The essays are full of whimsical humour and human insights. Few authors can match Roy for compassion and gentle wit. Lights is an antidote for depression, a view of the human condition shaped by hope and love.


Roy, Gabrielle, “The Fragile Lights of Earth: Articles and Memories 1942-1970,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,