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The attic

The attic window, overlooking Deschambault Street. Photo: Robert Barrow, 2006

Author Gabrielle Roy was born in 1909, the youngest of eleven children born to Léon and Mélina Roy. She grew up in St. Boniface, Manitoba, in the big family house at 375, Deschambault Street. Later, she gave the title Rue Deschambault to one of her novels, which was translated into English as Street of Riches.

Although she moved away, her home was ever-present in her work.

An attic may perhaps be thought of as the place where a home collects its memories, both literally and figuratively. Unwanted articles are stored up there, things that one can’t quite bring oneself to throw away, or that one forgets because the attic goes largely unvisited; as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. So, if one ventures right to the top of the house, up beneath the clouds, one may well discover a treasure trove of memories, a magic kingdom of dreams and imagination.

Like her brothers and sisters before her, Gabrielle used to hide and play in the attic as a child; when she was an adolescent, she took over the little room with its single window for her own. From this lofty perch, she could see a long way off; up here, she made her first attempts at writing.

IMG_2295While her works were often inspired by the people and places she knew in her youth, they are nonetheless works of fiction. It is sometimes difficult to separate what is autobiographical from what arose from the writer’s imagination. To point this out is in no way to lessen the appeal of the work of this great Canadian author; in fact, it may even intrigue the reader all the more.

The importance of memory and dreams in Gabrielle Roy’s writing means that this attic is the ideal spot to showcase her work. In this storehouse of memories, from which she drew inspiration as she wrote, we invite you to learn something about her legacy to us.

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