Books

The rest... is history

CHILD OF THE MORNING by Pauline Gedge

SUZANNE ZWARUN June 13 1977
Books

The rest... is history

CHILD OF THE MORNING by Pauline Gedge

SUZANNE ZWARUN June 13 1977

The rest... is history

CHILD OF THE MORNING by Pauline Gedge

(Macmillan of Canada, $9.95)

Pauline Gedge made a pact with herself when she settled into the rectory in Hanna, Alberta, in September, 1975, and started work on her third novel. A welfare mother when she’d made her first attempts, Gedge vowed she’d become an author by 30 or she’d quit trying and get a job. She had to hurry: she was then 29. Now, 31, Gedge has outdone herself. Not only did her novel win the New Alberta Novelist Competition, but Child Of The Morning has been snapped up by Dial Press in the United States for a $25,000 advance—believed to be the largest contract ever awarded a Canadian first novel.

Child Of The Morning is a fictionalized biography of Hatshepsut. the little-known and only female pharaoh. Gedge was impressed by Hatshepsut when she first studied her, at 11, and somehow the pharaoh “just popped into my mind” when she started the novel. Gedge reports that Hatshepsut. who ruled around 1500 B.C., considered the job her right since she believed that she was God. Her father made her regent when she was 15 but she didn’t rule on

died when she was 27; for the next 21 years Egypt was hers. Hatshepsut was probably poisoned by her nephew-stepson, who wiped out so much of her legacy that it wasn’t until recent times that archaeologists learned of her existence. Gedge has taken these tantalizing details and in a fast-moving style laced with cheerful modernisms (“Have a care, Thothmes”), embellished them with enough tragedy, furtive incest and blood-in-the-sand melodrama to fill several drugstore book shelves.

The New Novelist contest netted Gedge $1,000 cash and a $1,500 publishing contract from co-sponsors Macmillan of Canada which in turn stumbled into a “spectacularly quick and high” American sale to Dial. Macmillan’s Bella Pomer casually mentioned Child Of The Morning to Dial editorial director Juris Jurjevics, who offered to look at it Pomer was prepared to wait eight weeks for an answer: Dial was back in 10 days saying, “We like it. How much do you want for it?” North American paperback rights aren’t settled yet, but a deal for both hardcover and paperback rights in the United Kingdom is nearing completion.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Gedge has bounced between that country, Britain and Canada for most of her life. When her marriage to actor Richard Harrison broke up five years ago, Gedge moved her two sons, Simon, now nine, and Roger, six, to Edgerton, Alberta, from Edmonton and applied for welfare. “It was very good for my pride. It hurt every time I had to admit 1 was on welfare. That stops you from thinking too much of yourself.”

Gedge filled in the time writing a novel that won her honorable mention in Alberta’s first New Novelist Competition in 1973, but she failed to sell it. Her second entry, aimed at being a commercial success, was “unmentionable.” By her third try, she was off welfare and living with her parents in Hanna, where her minister father had taken over the All Saints (Anglican) parish. With the contest deadline looming fast, Gedge completed the writing in six weeks. Alberta’s three-year-old new novelist contest is the first organized effort by a provincial government to promote new writers, although Saskatchewan is planning to follow its lead. So far. three winners and four runner-up novels have been published but only Gedge has been published outside Canada. Previous winners are working on second novels but speedy Gedge will probably beat them to the punch. Having found her niche, she has finished research on her next novel, to

be set in Roman Britain.

SUZANNE ZWARUN