Barbara Gowdy, novelist, short-story writer (b at Windsor, Ont 25 Jun 1950). Barbara Gowdy grew up in Don Mills, a Toronto suburb, and attended York University and the Royal Conservatory of Music. She considered careers in music and finance, and worked as an editor before publishing her first novel in 1988. Through the Green Valley is Gowdy's most conventional work, a historical romance of an 18th-century Irish peasant.
Falling Angels (1989), which traces the lives of three daughters in a repressive 1950s-era suburb, explores the dark secrets and unhappiness lurking beneath a family's normal appearance. This theme is also central to Mister Sandman (1995), which was nominated for a Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize. This novel is about the Canary family of Toronto, one of whom observes that "even in so-called perfect families, there are webbed feet and Kleptomaniacs." Gowdy's interest in marginal figures is reflected in the stories that comprise We So Seldom Look on Love (1992), as they examine the lives of characters who reside outside of, and thereby challenge, contemporary society's concept of normality. The sympathetically portrayed protagonist of the title story, for example, is an embalmer and a necrophiliac. Kissed, the 1996 film based on "We So Seldom Look on Love," launched well-known Canadian actor Molly Parker's film career. Barbara Gowdy received the Marion Engel Award in 1996 for her body of work.
In the Giller Prize and Governor General's Award finalist White Bone (1998), Gowdy displays her narrative ingenuity to fine effect and continues to push the boundaries of conventional fiction. The novel's narrator is Mud, a young elephant cow orphaned at birth who roams the plains of Africa with her adoptive family in search of a haven from drought and poachers. The Romantic (2003) recounts the unquenchable love of its protagonist, Louise Kirk, for her childhood neighbour, Abel, a talented but alcoholic artist. They are both shown to be incurable addicts, in danger of losing their lives and their selves to their obsessions. The Romantic was nominated for a number of major literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Man Booker Prize.