Ann Charney


Distantly Related to Freud

An affecting coming-of-age tale of a precocious, wary girl in the 1950s and 1960’s

Ellen is the central hope of her mother and a motley family of refugees who washed ashore in Montreal after fleeing war-torn Europe.

Ellen’s best friend Lydia enjoys more freedom (or neglect) from her mother Magda who counsels the teenagers, “Sex is power.”

Magda, a fashion executive with a wealthy, married paramour who lavishes her with gifts and travel, is a living tutorial on being a femme fatale. Ellen tests Magda’s lessons during a summer with glamorous American cousins who are part of New York’s country club set.

Success has its consequences when she attracts the affection and the fraternity “pin” of a suitor. Ellen dispassionately loses her virginity but flees commitment.

Sex is power, indeed, but in a power play, the tables can turn abruptly. The shock occurs when Lydia is abducted. For several sickening days she cannot be found and is feared dead. The truth horrifies Ellen who learns other weapons in power’s arsenal are even more potent when wielded by a jealous, embittered wife.

Ellen’s explorations and astute comments guide us from post-war anxieties into the febrile sixties. Her cool distance masks her determined and endearing attempt at self-preservation and search for identity.

Cormorant 2008



The art of the French formal garden and the spirit of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau inform this delightful and intelligent novel about a young woman who bewilderingly finds herself at an impasse.

Claire Symons is a successful photographer in her late thirties, accomplished, self possessed, respected. She is recently married to Adrian, an internationally renowned art historian whose specialty is the French garden as a work of art. But Claire's bubble of happiness and security is pierced by unexplained panic attacks.

Claire believes that the source of her anxiety may lie in her unresolved feelings of abandonment, suffered at age 12 when her beloved mother Dolly died. In the months preceding her death, Dolly, an artist, had been in Paris. Something happened. Claire embarks on a quest to piece together the events in France that caused Dolly's emotional crisis.

Paris has rarely appeared more lively or more engaging than among Dolly's old friends, who have surmounted upheaval, dislocation, and vast change. They include the indomitable Marta, matriarch of an unruly clan, who holds the key to Dolly's secret. Will she part with it and betray ancient pacts?

Claire also relies on her own dear women friends. Zoe, a psychoanalyst, mother of two, and has troubles of her own, is a foil for Claire. The Countess, custodian of a great garden and a relic of a former regime, looks forward unflinchingly to the close of an era. These women of varying generations help Claire resolve her past and point the way to her future.


Praise for Rousseau’s Garden

“A lovely gem.”

US Library Journal

“Its landscapes and characters will continue to haunt you, and its insights will continue to reverberate in your mind.”


Praise for Dobryd

‘An illuminating novel about an unusual place and time.”

US Library Review

“One of the best books on a European destiny in our century.”

Stuttgarter Zeitung


Ann Charney was born in Poland, studied at McGill University and the Sorbonne, and lives in Montreal. The government of France named her Officier de l’Ordre Arts et des Lettres.

Ann Charney’s novels Dobryd and Rousseau’s Garden were published in the US, Canada, France, Germany and Italy. Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Chatelaine, Paris Transcontinental, Saturday Night, Descant, Canadian Forum, and Queen’s Quarterly.