The Time of Her Life


267 pages
ISBN 0-86492-286-8
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas is a middle-school guidance counselor, teacher, and social
worker in Milton, Ontario.


Jean Dunphy, an object of beauty, first fondled as a teenager by a
whisky smuggler, then photographed by a gay New Yorker, makes her way to
the big silent screen in California where she finds success. Stardom
takes her to France where she meets and marries a European count who has
a son. In Paris she lives the life of an aristocrat until World War II,
when her life is devastated by the death of her husband and soon after
the war the death of her son. Bored with her life, Jean returns to Old
Montreal to renew her film career, still searching for those who would
be charmed by her beauty. “Sometimes she felt herself watched, the
presence of the camera, though she was herself, she supposed, the eye
watching.” A faded rose, she lives out her last days in her apartment.

In telling Jean’s story, David Helwig attempts to write as though he
were a watercolor artist, sensitive to colors and mood. Although the
details are subtle and at times beautiful, the larger picture fails to
arouse the reader’s curiosity or empathy. Jean is aloof and
withholding, and her story is one without hope.


Helwig, David., “The Time of Her Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024,