The Next Chapter·Dog-Eared Reads

Andrea Gunraj thinks this 2012 novel by Linda Spalding is a 'masterclass in voice'

The Toronto essayist and novelist loves re-reading The Purchase, the award-winning novel about the lasting impact of slavery in North America.
Andrea Gunraj is an essayist and novelist based in Toronto. (Emblem Editions, Mango Studios2)

Andrea Gunraj is a Toronto-based essayist and novelist. Her latest is The Lost Sister, a novel about two sisters, Alisha and Diana, whose lives are steeped in tragedy when one goes missing and is found murdered. 

The book that Gunraj loves re-reading from is Canadian-American author Linda Spalding's novel The Purchase, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2012.

She stopped by The Next Chapter to tell us why.

"A book that I go back to all the time is Linda Spalding's The Purchase. What I love about it is that it shows how claustrophobic slavery was in communities. 

"Slavery was something that was not arm's length — people who were slavers and people who were enslaved were living together in the same communities. This book brilliantly shows how the tensions go together with that closeness and with that injustice. Everybody was aware of the injustice. Everybody was, at some level, mindful of it. 

What I love about it is that it shows how claustrophobic slavery was in communities.- Andrea Gunraj

"I find this book shows the complexity of a big dynamic like slavery, injustice and the transatlantic slave movement — and what that means for people on a day-to-day basis. I find that book is just a masterclass in voice and how you can play around with the idea of voice —  you don't have to be stuck to a 'period sound' and it can still feel 100 per cent authentic.

"It's a book I go back to it every so often to help me when I'm struggling with voice, when I'm struggling with complexity and when I'm getting into the big realities but not talking about how that makes a person's daily life different."

Andrea Gunraj's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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