The Convict Lover

By Merilyn Simonds

The Convict Lover
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A new edition of the beloved and bestselling classic work of creative nonfiction

It is 1919. Joseph Cleroux, a handsome young man who escaped the Great War and the flu epidemic, is incarcerated in Kingston Penitentiary, determined that jail will not break him. Phyllis Halliday ... Read more


Overview

A new edition of the beloved and bestselling classic work of creative nonfiction

It is 1919. Joseph Cleroux, a handsome young man who escaped the Great War and the flu epidemic, is incarcerated in Kingston Penitentiary, determined that jail will not break him. Phyllis Halliday is a 17-year-old schoolgirl who finds his letter in the quarry where he is doing hard time. As “Peggy” and “Dady-Long-Legs,” they exchange a clandestine correspondence that frees them both from the confines of their lives, although the risk entailed increases as Joseph asks more and more of Phyllis and conditions inside Canada’s most notorious prison deteriorate.

Based on letters the author found in the attic of her home, The Convict Lover is a blend of historical detective work and imaginative recreation — a haunting, unforgettable journey through the world of Canada’s first and oldest penitentiary and portrait of the people who lived in its shadow, both inside and outside its walls. Played out against the backdrop of a war-scarred society, a vicious battle for penitentiary reform, and the first riot in Canada’s prison history, The Convict Lover is a story of human resilience and desire.

This edition includes a new introduction and epilogue.

Merilyn Simonds

Merilyn Simonds is the author of 17 books, including Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, a 2017 Globe Best Book, The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and the Canadian classic work of creative nonfiction, The Convict Lover, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her work has been anthologized and published internationally. In 2017, Project Bookmark Canada unveiled a plaque to honor the place of The Convict Lover in Canada’s literary landscape. She grew up in South America and now divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and Mexico.

Reviews

“A tour de force. Simonds’ prose is alluring, her historical detective work is flawless . . . what makes The Convict Lover soar off the page, though, is Simonds’ ability to probe into the psyches of real people, and to find there imaginative truth.” –Globe and Mail

“Extraordinary and luminous…the book’s themes are grand ones: the enduring power of words on a page and how communication with another human being can make the unbearable bearable.…a book about hope.” –Ottawa Citizen

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