Blanche Howard

A Memoir of Friendship

A thirty year dialogue on love and literature between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard

For 30 years, the popular, award-winning author Carol Shields exchanged letters with her close friend and occasional collaborator, author Blanche Howard.

Their correspondence spanning the years 1975 to 2003 was halted when Carol Shields died of cancer. It was a momentous era in women’s history and it was a dramatic period for them. Carol, a young mother of five, married to an engineering professor, took her place on the world literary stage, when her fiction garnered Booker Prize nominations and won the coveted US Pulitzer Prize.

Blanche Howard, 12 years older than Carol, married to a politician, was a mother, and herself a published, acclaimed author. They discussed the craft of writing, their families, other writers, their disappointments, and the details of their daily lives.

The letters place their strong, intelligent voices on the page. But Blanche Howard provides context and chronology in descriptive linking passages and journal entries. The result is a rich and intimate portrait of a celebrated author, a deep friendship between two women, their ambitions, and their history.

The foreword is by Anne Giardini, a writer and daughter of Carol Shields.

The editors are Blanche Howard and Allison Howard. Some photos included. Blanche Howard’s books include A Celibate Season a novel co-authored with Carol Shields, and her acclaimed novel Penelope’s Way. Carol Shields is the author of the Pulitzer prize winning novel The Stone Diaries, Larry’s Party, and Unless.

Penguin Canada 2007


A Novel

"This book is a great read: a compact narrative with a wide-ranging story and metamagical themes that allow small incursions of another world into this one...Penelope's Way moves along at quite a clip with its layered stories and curious characters; although it was most satisfying, I found it ended far too soon. So I'll read it again. Soon."

- Globe & Mail

"This novel spirals in a beautiful whirl of both cosmic and earthly concerns. A whole world held up to the light - love, lust, family, friendship, Time, Chaos, potluck dinners - all the good stuff is here."

- Eliza Clark

"Howard - late bloomer though she may be - is clearly someone to watch."

- The Vancouver Sun

"Her search for the meaning of life is destined to fail, but Penelope, and the reader, find a satisfying middle ground where contentment is possible."

- Quill & Quire

In this rich, luminous novel, we come to know the life, loves, times and obsessions of Penelope Stevens, as it unfolds in monthly instalments the year she turns 70.

It is an eventful year for Penelope, a warm and vibrant woman, who, as she walks four kilometres daily through the residential streets of Vancouver, ponders her search for the meaning of life.

As she tries to make sense of her own life, her marriage, and her place in time and in the universe, her adult children, Brenda and Gordon come to need her at their time of crisis. Her former lover George dies during one of the monthly potluck dinners. Penny can barely remember the passion but the guilt lingers on.

Does Penny decode the meaning of life? Well, yes. Blanche Howard also offers a wonderful and uplifting surprise ending, buoyant with hope and love.

Coteau CAN/2000


Blanche Howard co-wrote A Celibate Season, a novel in two voices, with Carol Shields. Blanche Howard wrote the wife's voice and Carol Shields wrote the husband's voice. The London Sunday Times offered warm praise: "This carefully balanced novel makes the reader a participant in the Selby's time of trouble and is deeply satsifying to read."

Blanche Howard, who lives in Vancouver, has published three earlier novels, and has another ready for submission.