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Dreaming Sally

Dreaming Sally is a profound and evocative exploration of the long shadow left by an 18-year-old girl, an uncanny story of first love, sudden death and the complexity of trauma and mourning.

James FitzGerald

George Orr dreamed that his girlfriend, Sally Wodehouse, would die on the trip she wanted to take, and he begged her not to go. But Sally did not take him seriously — how could she? She left for Europe in July 1968 with 25 other private-school kids, on "The Odyssey," a Sixties version of the Grand Tour. In August 1968, only hours after becoming engaged to George via telegram, she died as he had dreamed she would, in a freak accident.

Sally was George's first love, but she was also James FitzGerald's. James first met Sally at a family cottage; he was drawn to her energy and warmth, a stunning contrast to the chilly emotional life of his own family. At seventeen, not exactly a hit with the girls, James was delighted when he realized that he'd be spending the summer with his old friend. And soon, even though he knew that Sally had a serious boyfriend back home, they became inseparable, touring the glories of Western culture by day, dancing and drinking the nights away — giddily unshackled from the expectations and requirements of their class and upbringing.

To George and James, both sons of parents who knew how to make demands of their children but not how to love them, Sally represented all the optimism and promised freedom of the 1960s. Her death has haunted both men for 50 years — arresting their development, miring them in grief and unreasoning guilt. Dreaming Sally is a profound and evocative exploration of the long shadow left by an 18-year-old girl, an uncanny story of first love, sudden death and the complexity of trauma and mourning. (From Knopf Random Vintage Canada)

Why James FitzGerald sees Sally as a symbol for the 1960s

"Sally was a human being, first and foremost. But she is also a symbol of youth, hope and optimism of the 1960s. She represented the time and the values of that generation. The irony of growing up in the post-war boom is that the economic affluence we subsequently grew up with freed us up; that's why our privileged youth kept crashing the barricades of society. It didn't make sense, for our parents, that we were saying that materialism is pointless and we wanted to have deeper values and connections. They just didn't understand. 

Sally was a human being, first and foremost. But she is also a symbol of youth, hope and optimism of the 1960s.- James FitzGerald

"That she is killed in this uncanny way — from a blow to the head in a freak road accident while on vacation — feels symbolic, much like the way the 1960s were killed. There was all this joy and liberation and then this very sudden blow and it's all over. Which is much like the way the 1960s ended as well."​

Read more in James FitzGerald's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

I was on deck, leaning on the railing, nestled between Sally and Nan, taking a breather from dancing. The ship was anchored, and in the dim moonlight we made out the famous profile of the Rock of Gibraltar. Ignited by Sally's smile, I performed my killer imitation of Skull Bassett, my lugubrious ancient-history master: "Tomorrow we will pass through the Pillars of Hercules, the nine-mile-wide pelvic portal into the Mediterranean Sea and the Pagan World." Then Peter burst through the bar door, a stray piece of shrapnel expelled by a blast of Rolling Stones. He grabbed the drink from Nan's hand, flung it overboard and hauled her onto the dance floor. 

Below deck in her cabin berth, Tammy rolled over and looked Nick square in the eyes: "You know, we're never going to be this happy again." 

It was official: on our delirious crossing of an epic body of water, our group was falling in love with itself.


From Dreaming Sally by James FitzGerald ©2018. Published by Random House Canada

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