The Difference

The Difference is a novel by Marina Endicott.

Marina Endicott

"Up from underneath comes a blue-black swell, a whale rising in a long arc. Kay waits, hovering in the difference between herself and the creature."

What is the difference between ourselves and other humans? Between human and animal? Where does that difference persist in our minds? These are the questions Marina Endicott, one of our most beloved storytellers, explores in this sweeping, intoxicating novel set on the Morning Light a ship from Nova Scotia sailing the South Pacific in 1912. Thea and Kay are half-sisters, separated in age by more than a decade. After the death of their stern father, head of a residential school in western Canada, the elder sister, Thea, returns east for her long-awaited marriage to the captain of the ship. She cannot abandon her younger sister, so Kay joins her, and together they embark on a life-changing voyage around the world. 

At the heart of The Difference is one crystallizing moment in Micronesia: Thea forms a bond with a young boy from one of the islands, and takes him as her own. The repercussions of this act reverberate through the novel — forcing Kay to examine her own assumptions about what is forgivable, and what is right. Taking inspiration from the true story of a small boy who was brought on board a Canadian sailing ship in the South Seas, Marina Endicott shows us a vanished world in all its wildness and wonder, and its darkness, prejudice, and difficulty too. She also brilliantly illuminates our own times through Kay's preoccupation with the idea of "difference" — between people, classes, continents, cultures, customs, and species. (From Knopf Canada)

Marina Endicott is the author of several critically acclaimed novels. Her most recent books include The Little Shadows and Close to Hughboth of which were longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. In 2010, her novel Good to a Fault won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Canada/Caribbean, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was featured on the 2010 edition of Canada Reads.

Interviews with Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott on her novel The Difference, and the shocking true story it is based on.

Other books by Marina Endicott


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?