The youngest of 8 children of a francophone family in St-Boniface, Roy lived in Manitoba until 1937. She was profoundly influenced by the prairie landscape and by the cosmopolitan world of the immigrants who settled in western Canada in the early 20th century. Her studies completed, she taught school for 12 years, first in isolated villages and then in St-Boniface, where she also did some theatre with the Cercle Molière. In the summer of 1937, she taught in northern Manitoba and after that went to Europe. It was during the 2 years that she spent in France and England that she began to write.
The approaching war forced her to return to Canada in 1939. She chose to live in Montréal, where she became a free-lance journalist and began writing Bonheur d'occasion. Published in 1945, this novel, which describes working-class life in the early war period, won the Prix Fémina in Paris and the Literary Guild of America Award in New York. Translated into more than 15 languages (The Tin Flute in English), it brought Roy literary fame. In 1947 she was the first woman to be admitted to the RSC. She married Dr Marcel Carbotte that same year.
During a subsequent stay in France, she wrote a second book based on her memories of the Canadian West. La Petite Poule d'eau (1950) was later magnificently illustrated by painter Jean-Paul LEMIEUX. Upon returning to Canada, Roy settled in Québec City. She continued to write about the solitude of modern man (Alexandre Chenevert, 1954), the obsessive preoccupations of the artist (La Montagne secrète, 1961, inspired by the life of painter René Richard), the conflict between the values of progress and those of tradition (La Rivière sans repos, 1970), the poetry of nature (Cet été qui chantait, 1972), immigration and travel (Un Jardin au bout du monde, 1975; De quoi t'ennuies-tu, Éveline? 1982), and particularly about her own youth (Rue Deschambault, 1955; La Route d'Altamont, 1966; Ces enfants de ma vie, 1977). Roy also published stories for children (Ma vache Bossie, 1976; Courte-Queue, 1979) and a volume of articles and essays (Fragiles lumières de la terre, 1978).
Written in a simple, uncluttered style, the works of Roy today have a vast public, both in Canada (where almost all her books have been translated into English) and abroad. The central theme of her work is that of humanity in pain and solitude, but redeemed by the love implicit in creation and by hope for a world in which all men are reconciled.
See also LITERATURE IN FRENCH.
Author FRANÇOIS RICARD
Links to Other Sites
About award-winning Canadian author Gabrielle Roy. Features a biography, a bibliography, lists of awards, and articles about the writer. From Library and Archives Canada.
Face to Face: The Canadian Personalities Hall
"Face to Face" features outstanding Canadians whose ideas and contributions have transformed this country. Click on the photos in "Meet the Personalities" to see their biographies. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.