121 pages
ISBN 0-88961-073-8




Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at Ryerson Polytechnical University.


Quilt is the first novel of successful short story and play writer, Donna E. Smyth. Set in rural Nova Scotia, it is an intense book about two country women and a young battered wife who comes to live with one of them for shelter, and the relationships of these women with their husbands and families. The title refers to a quilt which the women and their neighbours are working on together for a church charity, and it functions as a symbolic unifying force for the women. When they are socializing and working together over their task, they feel free and happy, no longer defined by their husbands and household chores.

The major characters, the women and their husbands, are vividly drawn through each one’s stream of consciousness reflections of their inner thoughts and past lives, presented in their own manner of speaking. They are depressed people, who feel defeated by life and unable to control their own destiny. There is a preoccupation with disease, blood, and death, both in the recollections of the characters and in the author’s imagery and descriptions, foreshadowing the final futile tragedy of the book.

Smyth displays a real feel for the forces of nature and the idiom of the local people in her atmospheric and vivid descriptions of rural life. The writing has a poetic quality, with its repetitions of words and phrases within sentences and paragraphs, and its rich imagery and metaphors of animal and plant life and death.

The novel makes an impact, and provokes a response in the reader, even if it may be a negative one to some of the characters. This book should be a useful addition to Canadian literature collections.


Smyth, Donna E., “Quilt,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38471.