First published in 1960, This Side Jordan
is the debut novel by Margaret Laurence, best known for her modern classics The Stone Angel
and The Diviners
. It throbs with a palpable sense of the urgency of its time, the era of independence in 1950s West Africa. Through a cast of vividly drawn characters, Laurence, who spent most of the '50s living in Ghana, explores the difficult psychological and social borderline between blacks and whites at the end of the colonial period in the city of Accra and its environs. The protagonist, the bespectacled Nathaniel Amegbe, is torn between two worlds: his deeply felt Ashanti past and his present occupation as a schoolteacher. As readers, we're privy to Amegbe's attempts to think his way to a kind of salvation. In all his contradictions, he embodies Africa's struggle to enter the modern world.
Laurence paints characters who are living presences. Johnie Kestoe, for example, a racist company man, "was thin in a sharp, almost metallic way, like a man made of netted wire upon which flesh has been inadequately spread." The stories of Amegbe, Kestoe, their wives, families, business colleagues, and friends, are those of two distinct worlds trying to mesh. The novel works brilliantly at numerous levels: the personal, the historic, the social. And as an exploration of Ghana in that period, it is strikingly believable. This Side Jordan examines greed, racism, pride, and self-betrayal. In the end, however, it is a tale of the human condition and the struggle for redemption. --Mark Frutkin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
was born in Neepawa, Manitoba, in 1926. Upon graduation from Winnipeg’s United College in 1947, she took a job as a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen
From 1950 until 1957 Laurence lived in Africa, the first two years in Somalia, the next five in Ghana, where her husband, a civil engineer, was working. She translated Somali poetry and prose during this time, and began her career as a fiction writer with stories set in Africa.
When Laurence returned to Canada in 1957, she settled in Vancouver, where she devoted herself to fiction with a Ghanaian setting: in her first novel, This Side Jordan
, and in her first collection of short fiction, The Tomorrow-Tamer
. Her two years in Somalia were the subject of her memoir, The Prophet’s Camel Bell
Separating from her husband in 1962, Laurence moved to England, which became her home for a decade, the time she devoted to the creation of five books about the fictional town of Manawaka, patterned after her birthplace, and its people: The Stone Angel
, A Jest of God
, The Fire-Dwellers
, A Bird in the House
, and The Diviners
Laurence settled in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1974. She complemented her fiction with essays, book reviews, and four children’s books. Her many honours include two Governor General’s Awards for Fiction and more than a dozen honorary degrees.
Margaret Laurence died in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1987.