New Brunswick History in Fiction

New Brunswick is rather unique in the country (perhaps “isolated” is the more apt word) for not possessing a contemporary historical fiction – a fiction, that is, that takes a measure of a region’s history in order to explore the genesis of attitudes and to “trouble” those attitudes. This is not to suggest that writers of contemporary historical fiction seek to re-write history from the always-enlightened perspective of the present, but rather to say that writers of historical fiction are essential to all cultures for the light they shine on the past. Such writers often are critical of past practices, but they are critical in the service of greater understanding. They work from the premise that to know oneself and one’s culture, we all must look in the rear-view mirror. And they also work from the premise that all history is fiction, a series of stories and interpretations that are written by the powerful and that change over time. If history is fiction, they surmise, then so too is identity, that sense we have of ourselves that is informed by where we come from, where we are, and what stories we choose to tell about ourselves.

 In New Brunswick, historical fiction of an earlier type (more searching, less critical) made an appearance in the nineteenth century. Douglas Huyghue’s Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac was released in serial form in 1842. The novel examined both the 1755 expulsion of the Acadians and the collision of European and Indigenous cultures. Moses Henry Perley and later Charles G.D. Roberts undertook work of a similar type, but the spirit of Huyghue’s social conscience was never repeated in New Brunswick with the same moral urgency.

 

In The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor (2007), readers will encounter one of the few examples of contemporary historical fiction in the province. The novel examines New Brunswick’s pre- and post-Loyalist tableaux, shedding light on a history that most New Brunswickers do not know. We hope that the novel sparks others to write about the province’s past in the ways that Prairie, Newfoundland, and Quebec writers have done for generations – and with lasting benefit.

 

For the full Module Page on New Brunswick historical fiction, click here.