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CanLit150

Celebrate more than 150 years of Canada with 150 books.

Marc Côté Recommends

Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham

Earth and High Heaven (1944)

(From Cormorant Books)

When Erika Drake, of the Westmount Drakes, met and fell in love with Marc Reiser, a Jew from northern Ontario, their respective worlds were turned upside down. Set against the backdrop of the first three years of the Second World War, Earth and High Heaven captured the hearts and minds of its generation and helped to shape the more diverse and inclusive culture we have today.

Published in 1944, this classic novel was very timely; it spoke of the prejudices of its time, when Gentiles and Jews did not mix in society. Earth and High Heaven was the most successful novel of its time, winning many awards and prizes, including the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1945 (an award founded to reward books that exposed racism or explored the richness of human diversity). It was translated into eighteen languages and the film rights were purchased by Samuel Goldwyn for a remarkable $100,000. Earth and High Heaven was the first Canadian novel to top the New York Times bestseller list for the better part of a year.

Gwethalyn Graham

(From Cormorant Books)

Gwethalyn Graham was born January 18, 1913 in Toronto. Her father was a lawyer, her mother entertained numerous international figures of importance in their home, and both encouraged their four children to think for themselves — theirs was a family which set the rules rather than followed them. At the age of 25, in 1938, she won her first Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction for her novel Swiss Sonata. After Earth and High Heaven, Graham wrote for Saturday Night, Chatelaine, and for film and television, and completed a collection of letters with Solange Chaput Roland titled Dear Enemies (1963). Graham died in 1965.