Margaret Laurence (1926-1987), writer, was born Jean Margaret Wemyss in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba, which inspired her fictional “Manawaka”. Her parents, of Scottish and Irish descent, died when she was young and she was brought up by an aunt who had become her stepmother. From 1944 to 1947, Margaret Wemyss attended United College, Winnipeg, with a scholarship and graduated with a B.A. honours in English. She worked as a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen upon graduation and married Jack Laurence, a civil-engineering graduate of the University of Manitoba, the same year. In 1949, they moved to England and one year later, they left for Africa and remained there for seven years, first in the British Protectorate of Somaliland (now Somalia) (1950-2), then in Ghana just before its independence (1953-7). (from York University archives)
The Diviners is a novel about Morag Gunn, a novel that I read for the first time in my first year at Carleton University. It was intense and intriguing, a young girl growing up without her parents, trusted to an eccentric aunt and uncle, in abject poverty. She navigates her way into adulthood and retells the story of her life from an adulthood that included a daughter very much like herself. You won’t be disappointed in this story. This novel won her the Governor General’s award for Fiction in 1974. She wrote a couple of other books set in Manawaka: A Jest of God, The Fire-Dwellers and Stone Angel.
McMaster University professor James King wrote a biography on the life of Margaret Laurence that is intimate and revealing, a must for devoted Laurence fans.