First Fiction Friday: The Empire

Fans of Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale will love reading this trilogy of plays in The Empire (Playwrights Canada Press) by Susanna Fournier. Spanning across five hundred dark years, Fournier reveals what we would do in the midst of revolution, war, and displacement — all in the pursuit of freedom. 


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Why you need to read this now: When was the last time you read such an epic book series that you had to sit for a while with your wonderment, with the space the story left you in? That’s the feeling you’ll get after reading all three plays in The Empire: The Philosopher’s WifeThe Scavenger’s Daughter, and Four SistersThe Empire takes place in a haunting world that simultaneously feels foreign and shockingly familiar. Spanning five hundred dark years of imagined history, this trilogy-in-one unpacks systems of power and what we are capable of in the pursuit of freedom, set against the backdrops of revolution, war, and displacement.  Starting with The Philosopher’s Wife, we’re introduced to a philosopher who’s been exiled for promoting his atheist work amidst a bloody revolution, but it’s trying to cure his wife’s animalistic behaviour that unleashes a battle of the sexes with violent reckonings. Over twenty years later in The Scavenger’s Daughter, the true face of the war between North and South is examined through the story of two soldiers trying to survive until they can earn their freedom, but their camp is thrown into chaos. And finally in Four Sisters, centuries later, a mysterious plague breaks out (note: this was written pre-Covid!), which forces a group of marginalized women farther away from their homes, into the path of experimental treatment, and facing more struggles for power in a violent world.  X + Y comparison:X+Y = This trilogy of modern epics about war, power dynamics, and the pursuit of freedom will appeal to fans of Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale.  

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Susanna Fournier is an award-winning writer, theatre maker, actor, and educator based in Toronto. She is most known for writing texts for live performance, visioning interdisciplinary productions, and popping up on your television now and again. From 2013–2020 she helmed PARADIGM productions, an indie company she started to produce rowdy, joyous, and “impossible” theatrical works. Her work has played in Toronto, Dublin, London, Berlin, and is known for its formal experimentation and wild spirit. She has been a playwright-in-residence with the Banff Playwrights Lab, Canadian Stage, and was the inaugural North American playwright to debut work at the Welt/Bühne festival at Residenztheatre, Munich. At home, Susanna is a dhamma practitioner and teacher, plant lover, and sometimes dancer currently working on her first book of prose.  (Photo Credit: David Spowart) 

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Thanks to Jessica Lewis at Playwrights Canada Press for introducing us to The Empire, available now on All Lit Up. For more First Fiction Friday, click here.