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.
Rachel Wyatt’s Foreign Bodies combines a sharp eye for human folly with a large dose of tolerance for this condition. Her gentle novel about an academic couple from Yorkshire loose in the wilds of modern Toronto is funny, warm, and very civilized.
Her protagonists, Ned and Ernesta Bolster, have come to The Institute of Improved Relations on a year’s sabbatical exchange, with Ned hoping to finish a book and Ernesta in search of something less tangible. The fat of the jest is when an expert on culture shock finds himself the victim of the “dislodgement” about which he has written so cleverly. Every day brings surprises, not a few of them from an uninvited Pakistani who has taken up residence in their rented house and whose kindness is killing. Back in Leeds, the year survived, Ernesta laughs at “that old Ernesta who had gone overseas and never returned.”
Wyatt has written two earlier novels, The String Box and The Rosedale Hoax. Her new story of displaced people punctures pomposity like a Giles cartoon. Her humour is more likely to Improve Relations than a dozen liberal academic institutes.