Wild Geese, novel credited to Martha Ostenso (London, New York and Toronto, 1925). Published first in England as The Passionate Flight, Wild Geese was one of the Best-Selling Canadian novels of the 20th century, driven in part by publicity surrounding its victory in a $13,500 prize for first novels offered by The Pictorial Review, the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and American publisher Dodd, Mead and Company.
Set outside the fictional town of Oeland, Manitoba, the novel centres on the Gares, a dysfunctional yet successful farming family controlled by rigid patriarch Caleb. His manipulative, unchallenged power comes in part through the knowledge that his wife Amelia bore a son from an affair. The Gare family's lodger, schoolteacher Lind Archer, is drawn into the drama when she meets the son, now an adult, and falls in love. The novel succeeds in avoiding the melodramatic, and is often held up as an accomplished work of early Canadian realism.
One of the novel's great strengths is its depiction of climate, the land, and the changes in each through the seasons. In this respect, it joins Frederick Philip Grove's Settlers of the Marsh (1925) in presenting a credible portrait of a prairie farm. Where earlier popular works like Arthur Stringer's Prairie Trilogy (1915-1921) romanticized and relied on stereotypes, Wild Geese stands out as a work in which characters are sometimes frightened, and often unconventional.
While Wild Geese continues to be published under Ostenso's name, it is now known to be the result of a collaborative effort with her former teacher and future husband Douglas Durkin. While the pair collaborated on other novels, none achieved the same levels of commercial or critical success.
Wild Geese has been translated into German, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Czech, Polish, Slovenian, and Spanish. There have to date been three film adaptations, including a lost 1927 silent picture, an Austrian feature entitled Der Ruf der Wildgänse (1961) and the made-for-TV movie After the Harvest (2001).