There Are Victories

By Charles Yale Harrison
Introduction by Johanna Skibsrud

There Are Victories
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A historical portrait of one woman’s quest for happiness amid a lifetime of bad men.

There Are Victories is a proto-feminist, anti-Bildungsroman that explores the intersections of misogyny, class, religion, and prejudice within upper class Anglo-Montreal and New York City society ... Read more


Overview

A historical portrait of one woman’s quest for happiness amid a lifetime of bad men.

There Are Victories is a proto-feminist, anti-Bildungsroman that explores the intersections of misogyny, class, religion, and prejudice within upper class Anglo-Montreal and New York City society before, during, and after WWI. Originally published in 1933, There Are Victories takes up the catastrophe of the home front and the ways in which the life—and happiness—of the novel’s protagonist, Ruth Courtney, is continually undermined by the bad behaviour of men. This new edition features a foreword by Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Johanna Skibsrud.

Charles Yale Harrison

Charles Yale Harrison (1898–1954) was born in Philadelphia and raised in a Jewish family in Montreal. Harrison moved from Montreal to New York in the 1920s, where he worked on the staff of the Communist Party of America (CPUSA)-led magazine New Masses. Drawing on his own service in the First World War, he published Generals Die in Bed (1930), a scathingly anti-war novel about the horrors of trench warfare. The novel was well-received and was followed by the novels A Child is Born (1931), There Are Victories (1933), Meet Me on the Barricades (1938), and Nobody's Fool (1948).

Johanna Skibsrud

Johanna Skibsrud is a Canadian-American writer, whose debut novel, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, making her the youngest writer to ever win Canada’s most prestigious literary prize. She is the author of two novels, two collection of short fiction, three collections of poetry, and the co-author of a children's book, Sometimes We Think You are a Monkey -- proceeds of which are being donated to the Himalayan School Project. She received her BA in English Literature at the University of Toronto, her MA in English and Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal, and her PhD in English Literature at the Université de Montréal.

Excerpt

I

The Mother Superior slept badly that night. Shortly after midnight she dressed and wandered through the long, dimly lit corridors, looking into doorways, nodding to the sisters on duty. Outside of the dormitory of les petites she paused, listening. From behind the heavy oak Gothic door she heard the slender cry of a weeping child and the soothing undertones of Sister Theresa as she comforted the little one. Soon the frightened sobbing of the child subsided and when all was quiet she entered the large, airy dormitory. Near the door, under a crucifix, Sister Theresa sat reading a prayer book. She rose.

“Reverend Mother,” the Sister murmured respectfully. She lowered her eyes and observed with deep satisfaction the sweeping fold of her dress as it broke over her high arching instep.

“Who was the frightened one?” the Mother Superior asked. She wrinkled her seventy-year-old face as she smiled gently.

“The new little girl—Ruth Courtney. ”

“Ah,” the Mother Superior said with sympathetic understanding, nodding her head slowly.

“She sat up screaming,” Sister Theresa went on, “and nearly wakened the others. ”

“Did she call for anyone?”

“She sat up in a cold sweat, God comfort her, and called for her mother. ”

“Ah,” the Mother Superior said again.

“It is the second time this week. It was worse when she first came. It is a month now. ”

“And how did you console her, Sister Theresa?”

“I ran quickly to her bedside and put my arms around her. Then when she was frightened no longer I pointed to the image of the Blessèd Virgin and told her that She watches after all the children of men. I patted her hand saying that no harm could come to her as long as the Holy Mother of God looked down upon her. ”

“And then?”

“She looked up blinking in the light of the candle, smiled, and was soon asleep. ”

The Mother Superior closed her eyes and prayed: “Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope—to thee do we cry, poor banished daughters of Eve. ”

The two women stood in silence for a moment and then the older one went on: “We must be patient and gentle with her; she has had a very unhappy few years—may the most prudent Virgin protect her. The child’s mother recently married for the second time. The stepfather—well, at any rate the young one, it seems, was in the way. Be sure and tell me from time to time how she gets along. ”

The Mother Superior moved silently to the bed on which little five-year-old Ruth Courtney lay sleeping. The girl’s disheveled mass of bright auburn hair sprawled on her pillow; her face was drawn even in sleep and her delicate nostrils were distended somewhat, like those of a startled pure­blooded filly. As the reverend mother looked on in reposeful silence, the girl’s face grew placid and soon there appeared the faintest trace of a smile. The woman blessed herself and, nodding to Sister Theresa, left the dormitory and continued her rounds of the convent.

Reviews

"Written in an exquisitely modulated manner that is admirably suited to its matter, Mr.
Harrison’s novel is a delicate, penetrating study of a woman’s soul, crowded with dramatic incident and stripped of all the futile irrelevancies that make the usual novel such a trial to read. "—from the original dustjacket copy

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