Hospital, Janette Turner

Janette Turner Hospital, novelist, short-story writer (b at Melbourne, Australia 12 Nov 1942). Janette Turner Hospital grew up in Queensland, Australia. She was educated at the University of Queensland, and taught high school in Australia and then worked as a librarian at Harvard University. Hospital moved to Canada in 1971 and attended Queen's University, where she completed an MA in English. Hospital lived in Kingston, Ontario for nearly 30 years, before moving to take up the position of Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of South Carolina. Janette Turner Hospital has also served as writer-in-residence at universities in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Janette Turner Hospital's first novel, The Ivory Swing (1982), parallels the lives of a Canadian woman living in India and a newly widowed Indian woman. The Ivory Swing won the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award. The Tiger in the Tiger Pit (1983) explores the puritanical ethics of a family through the character of a retired school principal whose wedding anniversary brings about a family reunion. Her novel Borderline (1985) again compares 2 women as it raises sociopolitical issues; its title signals the importance of boundaries in Hospital's writing, of those borders delineating country, generation, sex, social class, fantasy and reality. Border-crossing is an experience dramatized in the lives of her characters and in the writing act itself.

In 1986 Janette Turner Hospital was named as one of Canada's Best Ten Younger Writers. That same year she published her first collection of short stories, titled Dislocations, for which she won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Fiction Award and the CNIB's Torgi Award. These stories of uprooted and dislocated characters are set in Australia and Canada, as well as India and New York. Her novel Charades (1989), a modern reworking of the Arabian Thousand and One Nights, involves a series of tales told by an Australian student, named Charade Ryan, to her physics professor. Charade has come from the Australian outback to Boston, by way of Toronto, in search of the father she has never met. Australian, Canadian, and American settings are found again in Hospital's second short-story collection, Isobars (1990), which was a finalist for Ontario's Trillium Award. Hospital also published a murder mystery in 1990, titled A Very Proper Death, under the pseudonym Alex Juniper.

A mysterious death is also the major plot element in Janette Turner Hospital's 1992 novel, The Last Magician. Unlike a conventional mystery or crime novel, Hospital's narrative is less concerned with revealing the identity of who was responsible for the accidental death than with tracing the long-term repercussions, twenty-five years later, on the children who were there. The title of Hospital's next novel, Oyster (1996), refers to a fundamentalist cult leader in a tiny town in the Australian outback. The fate of Oyster and his followers is just one of many dark secrets in Outer Maroo. Both The Last Magician and Oyster were short-listed for Canadian and Australian literary awards.

Janette Turner Hospital won Australia's prestigious Patrick White Award and the 2003 Queensland Premier Literary Award for her novel Due Preparations for the Plague. The book is set 13 years after a 1987 terrorist airline hijacking, and follows the efforts of two individuals to discover what happened to their parents, who were held as hostages and eventually killed. The novel is a thriller, replete with suspicious deaths, chase scenes, villains with biochemical weapons, and governmental cover-up conspiracies. However, it is also a thought-provoking consideration of loss, fear, and the human potential for cruelty and recovery.

Although Turner has retained her Australian citizenship, it was during her three decades in Canada that she established herself as a major international writer. Her work has been examined in Canadian Literature journals and compared with that of other late-twentieth-century Canadian writers. On her inclusion in the Canadian Literature canon, Janette Turner Hospital comments, "Although it's never something I presume to claim for myself, I'm always touched and warmed and honoured when Canada claims me."