(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Tired of her second marriage, to Edward Vardoe, and the routine of her pent-up life in Vancouver, Maggie Vardoe decides to run away to the interior of British Columbia, where she finds freedom in nature. As the novel opens Maggie watches the flight of birds outside her window, her planned escape paralleling their migration beyond the mountains. To support herself and her secret plan, she has been making fishing flies—a skill she acquired in New Brunswick during her childhood—for a year and selling them to a sporting goods shop. At a prearranged hour, she runs to a taxi driven by Joey Quong a young Chinese, and never turns back to her home. As soon as Edward discovers that his wife has left him, he visits their friends and neighbors, the Severances, but they tell him that they know nothing about Maggie’s where abouts. From that point onward, Ethel Wilson alternates plots between Maggie and Nell Severance.

Maggie continues to distance herself from her husband and her city, head ing further into the interior of British Columbia, to the village of Hope and the forested banks of the Fraser River. Fishing for her freedom, she forgets about her mistaken second marriage and remembers instead her first marriage to Tom Lloyd, who was killed in action; she also remembers her child hood in New Brunswick, where she learned the skills of fishing. Indeed, the narrative alternates between descriptions of Maggie’s past and Nell’s past, for Maggie continues to write to Nell when she reaches her destination at Three Loon Lake, where she goes to work at...

(The entire section is 636 words.)


(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

McMullen, Lorraine, ed. The Ethel Wilson Symposium, 1982.

Pacey, Desmond. Ethel Wilson, 1967.