Books·Canadian

The Retreat

A novel by Elisabeth de Mariaffi.

Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Maeve Martin arrives at the High Water Center for the Arts determined to do one thing: launch her own dance company. Time is running out for the former principal dancer and mother of two to find her feet again after the collapse of a disastrous and violent marriage. At first, there's a thrill to being on her own for the first time in years, isolated in the beauty of a snowy mountain lodge. 

But when an avalanche traps the guests inside, tensions run high. Help is coming, so they just have to hold on, don't they? But as days pass, the other guests are struck down by mysterious deaths, one by one. Now, as she waits in fear, Maeve must admit how little she knows about anyone else... and how useless a locked door is if the darkness is already inside. (From HarperCollins Canada)

Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a writer based in St. John's, Newfoundland. Her debut collection of stories, How to Get Along with Womenwas a finalist for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her other books include Hysteria and The Devil You Know.

Why Elisabeth de Mariaffi wrote The Retreat

"In The Retreat, a professional dancer goes to a service including a mountain retreat. Winter comes in early and there is a freak avalanche. She gets trapped, and then people begin dying. 

"I have not had anything quite close to that experience, but I did go to Banff in 2009. Like Maeve in my book, I was newly divorced. I was a single mother. I felt the stakes were very high for my career. I was also around her age, 33 or 34. At the time, I thought a lot about the pressure and the ambition that come together in a place like that.

Like Maeve in my book, I was newly divorced. I was a single mother. I felt the stakes were very high for my career.- Elisabeth de Mariaffi

"Some of the things that happened in the book really did happen. Winter did come in early. It was October when I was there. I carried a lot of those experiences back away with me.

"At the time. I was working on short stories. I started a short story about a woman who was trapped by a freak storm. For whatever reason, that short story didn't take off, and I put it away in a file. But the idea never left me."

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

From the book

Maeve startles awake, her head throbbing.

They've hit a bump or train tracks, and she's jostled rougly against the side of the shuttle bus, her temple smacking the window as the vehicle lurches to a sudden halt. Outside, rain lashes at the ground. A three-hour trip up the mountain from the airport. The last village, High Water, some ten miles below them now.

Maeve is the only passenger left. She's staring ou tthe window into the night, her own reflection just an outline in the glass against all that darkness; her dancer's bone structure, high cheekbones and wide eyes, dark hair lost to the black of outside.


From The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi ©2021. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Interviews with Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Elisabeth de Mariaffi talks to Shelagh Rogers about her latest thriller, The Retreat,
Elisabeth de Mariaffi on why she loves Alice Munro's The Progress of Love

Other books by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

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