To mark the publication of Prologue to Love, series editor Bart Vautour considers what makes Martha Ostenso’s 1930s novel as relevant and interesting now as it was when it was first released.
Happy publication day!
Perhaps it’s somewhat odd to write in present tense about the publication of a book that was first published almost ninety years ago… but here we are, wishing Marth Ostenso’s Prologue to Love a happy book birthday! Okay, okay, maybe not that odd… it is what the Throwback Books series is meant to do: we choose books that are in the public domain, worthy of re-circulation, and then we publish them with a new, short introduction. This edition of Prologue to Love is generously and generatively introduced by podcaster, writer, and scholar extraordinaire, Hannah McGregor.
So, why Prologue to Love? Why now?
As Hannah rightly points out, this is “not CanLit as many of us have been taught it.” Whenever we get the chance to rethink ideas that are presented as self-evident, we should dive into the stories that present us with evidence against prevailing myths. Ostenso’s novel has conflict worthy of our attention, but the conflict that takes up the space of the narrative isn’t one that forces a realist idiom to declare an easy resolution. Rather, Ostenso places her cosmopolitan main characters in a world where they have the know-how and experience to navigate the soirées of Europe as well as the sheep farms of British Columbia.
Straying from the now anticipated scene of Canadian literature from the first half of the 20th century, Ostenso’s characters (for all their follies) are not naively pitted against an unforgiving landscape. Rather, they are caught up in, and struggling against, the social mores of their time as they try to find places for themselves in an ever-shifting world. Add in some romance, some mixed drinks, and haunting family histories, and you’ve got yourself a novel worthy of our attention.
Bart Vautor is the editor of Invisible Publishing’s Throwback Books series of undiscovered CanLit classics.