Books

Petra

Petra is a novel by Shaena Lambert.

Shaena Lambert

(Random House Canada)

January, 1980. At the height of the Cold War, Petra Kelly inspires hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to protest the placement of nuclear missiles on West German soil — including a NATO general named Emil Gerhardt, who shocks the establishment by converting to the cause. Petra and her general not only vault to fame as the stars of the Green Party, but they also fall in love. Then Manfred Schwartz, an ex-lover, urges Petra to draw back the curtain on Emil's war record, and they enter a world both complicated and threatening.

Told by Manfred Schwartz, from his place in a present world even more beset by existential threats, Petra is an exploration of love, jealousy, and the power of social change. A woman capable of founding a new and world-changing politics and taking on two superpowers, Petra still must grapple with her own complex nature and a singular and fatal love. (From Penguin Random House Canada)

Shaena Lambert is a novelist currently living in Vancouver. Her novel Radiance was was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. She is also the author of the short story collection Oh My Darling.

Why Shaena Lambert wrote Petra

"I met Petra in 1986. I think that's where it all started. I was very absorbed in the peace movement that time — like some of the characters in my book, but Canadian. It was in that age of nuclear anxiety. We had Petra Kelly come out Vancouver for one of the big walks for peace. She came with her General, this enigmatic man who followed her everywhere and was her lover. 

She talked about Indigenous rights, she talked about Tibet and she made you feel it. She galvanized everybody.

"She spoke at the Orpheum Theatre and you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was so electrified. I was one of those people. I was completely electrified by the way she spoke but also what she spoke about.

"At that time, she didn't have a narrow agenda — her agenda was so enormous. She talked about Indigenous rights, she talked about Tibet, and she made you feel it. She galvanized everybody. 

"I didn't become a writer until 10 years after meeting Petra. But she was in my mind. When I found out that she had died, that struck me very deeply. It seemed like a light had gone out."

Read more in her interview with CBC Books.

Interviews with Shaena Lambert

Shaena Lambert imagines the life of German politician Petra Kelly, an electrifying progressive figure in the 1980s, in her novel Petra. 17:07

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