Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

ROY, GABRIELLE (1909-1983)

Gabrielle Roy

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Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, on March 22, 1909, Gabrielle Roy entered the world on the threshold of the Great Plains, whose skies, towns, fields, and people she eventually painted with loving strokes in articles, stories, and novels.

Roy graduated with honors from high school and received her teaching certificate in 1929. In 1937, unfulfilled by her teaching career in Manitoba, she traveled to Europe, ostensibly to study acting. Returning to Canada on the eve of World War II, Roy settled in Montreal, where from 1939 to 1945 she enjoyed considerable success as a journalist, publishing more than 100 articles and short stories. This apprenticeship honed her craft and allowed her to travel throughout Canada, meeting the people who would eventually populate her fiction.

In 1945 the publication of her first novel, Bonheur d'occasion, brought her immediate renown. Easily Roy's best-known work, this award-winning exposé of the poor, Frenchspeaking population of Montreal gave new direction to the French Canadian novel.

The majority of Roy's writing individualizes the ethnic groups who settled in Canada's Great Plains, documenting the land and the human struggles there through the screen of personal experience and recollection. Whether a Franco-Manitoban family, a dying and careworn Ukrainian woman, or immigrant children, Roy's characters give voice to heretofore silent populations in works such as La Route d'Altamont (1966) and Ces enfants de ma vie (1977).

The recipient of three Governor General's Literary Awards for fiction and numerous other honors, Roy died in Quebec City on July 13, 1983. Gabrielle Roy's writings depict the lives of the poor, the dispossessed, and the lonely and transform them into sublime truths about the human condition.

Bill Clemente Peru State College Linda Clemente Ripon College

Clemente, Linda, and William Clemente. Gabrielle Roy: Creation and Memory. Toronto: ECW Press, 1997.

Ricard, François. Gabrielle Roy: Une vie. Montreal: Boreal, 1996.

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