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2022 Event:
Heather O'Neill
 
Life in the City of Dirty Water

From the beloved Giller Prize-shortlisted author who writes “like a sort of demented angel with an uncanny knack for metaphor" (Toronto Star), When We Lost Our Heads is a page-turning novel that explores gender and power, sex and desire, class and status, and the terrifying strength of the human heart when it can't let someone go.

About Heather O'Neill

Heather O’Neill is a novelist, short-story writer and essayist. Her previous work, which includes The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Daydreams of Angels, has been shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize two years in a row. She has won CBC's Canada Reads and the Danuta Gleed Award. Born and raised in Montreal, O'Neill lives there with her daughter.

When We Lost Our Heads (2022)

Marie Antoine is the charismatic, spoiled daughter of a sugar baron. At age twelve, with her pile of blond curls and unparalleled sense of whimsy, she's the leader of all the children in the Golden Mile, the affluent strip of nineteenth-century Montreal where powerful families live. Until one day in 1873, when Sadie Arnett, dark-haired, sly and brilliant, moves to the neighbourhood.

Marie and Sadie are immediately inseparable. United by their passion and intensity, they attract and repel each other in ways that set them both on fire. Marie, with her bubbly charm, sees all the pleasure of the world, whereas Sadie's obsession with darkness is all-consuming. Soon, their childlike games take on the thrill of danger and then become deadly.

Forced to separate, the girls spend their teenage years engaging in acts of alternating innocence and depravity, until a singular event unites them once more, with devastating effects. After Marie inherits her father's sugar empire and Sadie disappears into the city's gritty underworld, the working class begins to foment a revolution. Each woman will play an unexpected role in the events that upend their city—the only question is whether they will find each other once more.