Urquhart, Jane 1949–

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URQUHART, Jane 1949–


Born June 21, 1949, in Geraldton (some sources say Little Long Lac), Ontario, Canada; daughter of Walter A. (a mining engineer) and Marianne (a nurse) Carter; married Paul Brian Keele (an artist), January 1, 1969 (deceased); married Tony Urquhart (a professor and visual artist), May 5, 1976; children: (second marriage) Emily Jane. Education: Attended Havergal College; University of Guelph, B.A. (English), 1971, B.A. (art history), 1975. Hobbies and other interests: Tap dancing.


Canada Manpower Center, Trenton, Ontario, Canada, student placement officer, 1971-72; Royal Canadian Navy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, civilian information officer, 1972-73; University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, tutor and coordinator of art history correspondence program, beginning 1973. Writer-in-residence, University of Ottawa, beginning 1990, Memorial University of Newfoundland, beginning 1992, and University of Toronto, beginning 1997.


International PEN, League of Canadian Poets, Writers' Union of Canada.


Grants from Ontario Arts Council, 1980-86, and Canada Council, 1983, 1985, 1990; Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Award), 1992, for The Whirlpool; Trillium Award, Government of Ontario, 1993, for Away; Marian Engle Award, 1994, for outstanding body of prose written by a Canadian woman; named chevalier Order of Arts and Letters, 1996; Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, 1997, for The Underpainter; D.Lett., University of Waterloo, 1997; Harbourfront Festival Prize, 2004; Bob Edwards Award; appointed Officer to the Order of Canada.


False Shuffles (poems), illustrated by husband, Tony Urquhart, Press Porcepic (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1982.

I Am Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace (poems; also see below), Aya Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982.

The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan (poems; also see below), Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1983, revised 2nd edition, 1995.

The Whirlpool (novel), David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1986.

Storm Glass (short stories), Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

Changing Heaven (novel), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1992.

Away (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1993, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.

The Underpainter (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1997.

Some Other Garden (poems; contains I Am Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan), photographs by Jennifer Dickson, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

The Stone Carvers (novel), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.

A Map of Glass, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Four Square Garden: A Poetry Anthology, edited by Burnett, MacKinnon, and Thomas, Pas de Loup Press, 1982; Illusions, Aya Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1983; Meta Fictions, Quadrant Editions, 1983; Views from the North, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1983; Best Canadian Stories, Oberon Press, 1986; Magic Realism and Canadian Literature, University of Waterloo Press (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), 1986; and The Oxford Book of Stories by Canadian Women, Volume 2, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Contributor to periodicals, including Canadian Fiction, Descant, Poetry Canada Review, and Antigonish Review. Urquhart's works have been translated into several foreign languages.


The Whirlpool was adapted as a play of the same title by Brian Quirt, Playwrights Canada Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.


Jane Urquhart is a prominent Canadian writer who has won particular acclaim for her novels. She began her literary career in the early 1980s with the poetry collections False Shuffles, I Am Walking in the Garden of His Imaginary Palace, and The Little Flowers of Madame de Montespan. In 1986 she published her first novel, The Whirlpool, which charts the interactions of various characters—including a poet and an undertaker's widow—in Niagara Falls during the summer of 1889. In 1987 she issued the short-story collection Storm Glass. Eight years later, Urquhart produced Away, which recounts an immigrant's experiences. Branko Gorjup, writing in World Literature Today, declared that Away "firmly established [Urquhart's] reputation as one of Canada's leading contemporary writers of fiction."

In 1997 Urquhart secured a Canada's Governor General's Literary Award for The Underpainter, her novel in which a minimalist painter recalls his life in the North American wilderness. Gorjup lauded The Underpainter as a "remarkable achievement" and "an intense meditation on the nature of art and the role of the artist."

Urquhart's next novel, The Stone Carvers, concerns the hardships endured—separately—by Canadian siblings during World War I. Klara Becker learns that her lover has died in combat; meanwhile, her brother, who fights in France, survives but suffers the loss of a leg. Klara eventually accompanies her brother back to France, where they help construct a memorial for the Canadian soldiers still missing in action. A Publishers Weekly critic hailed The Stone Carvers as "a stirring look at one of the signal events of the 20th century," and Donna Seaman, in her Booklist appraisal, considered it "exquisitely rendered" and "morally inquisitive." Bonnie Schiedel proved harder to impress, claiming in Chatelaine that the novel "is like a chunk of gleaming marble, promising much but yielding little." But Starr E. Smith concluded in a Library Journal assessment that The Stone Carvers "will find many readers among fans of family sagas."

A Map of Glass, Urquhart's sixth novel, is structured in three main sections: a beginning modern section, then a historical story followed by another modern piece. As the novel opens, cartographer and historical geographer Andrew Woodman, suffering deeply from the effects of Alzheimer's, is trudging through a bitter winter landscape on his way to vaguely remembered Timber Island, where his family once had a thriving timber business. Andrew finds not memories but death in the harsh Canadian cold. In the spring, his body, frozen in an ice floe, runs aground on a small island in Lake Ontario, where troubled artist Jerome McNaughton is looking for solitude and inspiration. A year later, Andrew's fifty-three-year-old married lover, Sylvia Bradley, travels to the island to meet with Jerome, who found the older man's body. This journey is a test and triumph for Sylvia, who suffers from an autism-like psychological condition that causes fear of chaos and prevents her from having contact, particularly physical contact, with others. Among her symptoms are an obsession with maps and a chronic desire to create tactile maps with features that can be felt as well as seen. Though married to a doctor who understood and accepted her condition, Sylvia had been Andrew's lover for twenty years, offering her freedom and acceptance she could not find elsewhere. She hopes to connect one last time with her lost Andrew through Jerome. For his part, Jerome is also fighting psychological demons as an emotionally injured son of an abusive, alcoholic father, a seeker of stability and permanence through art, and a fragile survivor of a failed love life. In the middle part of the novel, Urquhart presents a historical recounting of Andrew's family and their triumphant rise as timber barons and slow disintegration in later years. In the last section, the haunted personalities of Jerome and Sylvia begin to find a measure of peace and reconciliation with themselves and with their own histories, moved by stories of the past and the tragic death of Andrew.

"Urquhart's novel is, among other things, a hymn to eastern Ontario, a loving unfurling of its 19th-century history; as well as a meditation—shared by almost all the novel's characters—upon the transitory passage of man's hand upon the landscape," observed Claire Messud in the Globe & Mail. "Urquhart's evocative prose hypnotically weaves together the disparate threads of the story," stated Christine DeZelar-Tiedman in Library Journal, while Booklist contributor Michele Leber remarked favorably on Urquhart's "typically concise yet lyrical language." With this novel, Urquhart "proves her mastery of history-infused Romanticism," asserted Rebecca Myers in Time Canada.



Booklist, May 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Stone Carvers, p. 1588; February 15, 2006, Michele Leber, review of A Map of Glass, p. 49.

Chatelaine, May, 2001, Bonnie Schiedel, "Stone Cold," review of The Stone Carvers, p. 22.

Essays on Canadian Writing, winter, 2004, Herb Wyile, "Jane Urquhart: Confessions of a Historical Geographer," interview with Jane Urquhart, p. 58.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 3, 2005, Claire Messud, "Into the Ontario Woods," review of A Map of Glass, p. D6; September 26, 2005, Kamal Al-Solaylee, "Jane's Odyssey," profile of Jane Urquhart, p. R3; June 17, 2006, H.J. Kirchhoff, "Paperbacks," review of A Map of Glass, p. D17.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of A Map of Glass, p. 61.

Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Starr E. Smith, review of The Stone Carvers, p. 136; February 15, 2006, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of A Map of Glass, p. 112.

Publishers Weekly, April 8, 2002, review of The Stone Carvers, p. 203; January 16, 2006, review of A Map of Glass, p. 36.

Time Canada, August 22, 2005, Rebecca Myers, "Five New Canadian Novels: History Inspires New Offerings from Some of Canada's Best Fiction Writers," review of A Map of Glass, p. 44.

Toronto Life, October, 2005, review of A Map of Glass, p. 58.

World Literature Today, spring, 1998, Branko Gorjup, review of The Underpainter.


Bloomsbury Web site,http://www.bloomsbury.com/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.

Canadian Writers Web site,http://www.collectionscanada.ca/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.

Northwest Passages,http://www.nwpassages.com/ (September 10, 2006), Heidi LM Jacobs, biography of Jane Urquhart.

Thirty-Sixth Listowel Writers' Week 2006 Web site,http://www.writersweek.ie/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.

University of New Brunswick Web site,http://www.unb.edu/ (February 8, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.

University of Toronto Canadian Poetry Library Web site,http://www.library.utoronto.ca/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.

Writers Union Canada Web site,http://www.writersunion.ca/ (September 10, 2006), biography of Jane Urquhart.*