Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CCR Book Club - April 2010

The Book Club's next book is Rosemary Sullivan's "Villa Air Bel" and the meeting will be scheduled for the end of April, the date to be agreed upon by the group.

Canadian author Rosemary Sullivan will be presenting her book "Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape and a House in Marseille" at a press conference at the Canadian Embassy on May 20, 2010 to launch the Italian edition of her celebrated novel. In addition to the CCR Book Club, and literary critics, the Embassy will also be inviting a group of students from the University of Bologna. CCR members and guests are invited to participate at the conference and can do so by RSVP'ing to Peter Egyed at The conference should take place on the afternoon of May 20th, details to follow.

Villa Bel-Air: A brief description

France, 1940. The once glittering boulevards of Paris teem with spies, collaborators, and the Gestapo now that France has fallen to Hitler's Wermacht. For André Breton, Max Ernst, Victor Serge, Marc Chagall, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, Remedios Varo, Benjamin Péret, and scores of other cultural elite denounced as enemies of the Third Reich, fear and uncertainty define daily life. One wrong glance, one misplaced confidence, could mean arrest, deportation, and death. Their only salvation is the Villa Air-Bel, a château outside Marseille where a group of young people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them alive.

Financed by the Emergency Rescue Committee, a private American relief organization, unlikely heroes—feisty graduate student Miriam Davenport, Harvard-educated classical scholar Varian Fry, beautiful and compelling heiress Mary Jayne Gold, and brilliant young Socialist and survivor of the Battle of Dunkerque Danny Bénédite and his British wife, Theo—cajole, outwit, and use every means possible to stave off the Nazis and newly installed Vichy government officials circling closer with each passing day. The château was a vibrant artistic salon, home to lively debates and clandestine affairs, to Sunday art auctions and subversive surrealist games. Relationships within the house were tense and arguments were common, but the will to survive kept the covert operation under wraps. Beyond the château's luscious façade war raged, yet hope reverberated within its halls. With the aid of their young rescuers, this diverse intelligentsia—intense, brilliant, and utterly terrified—was able to survive one of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century.

Villa Air-Bel is a powerfully told, meticulously researched true story. Rosemary Sullivan explores the diaries, memoirs, and letters of the individuals involved while uncovering their private worlds and the web of relationships they developed. Filled with suspense, drama, and intrigue, Villa Air-Bel is an excellent work of narrative nonfiction that delves into a fascinating albeit hidden saga in our recent history.

Rosemary Sullivan - A Profile

Rosemary Sullivan is an award-winning writer, journalist, a Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto in Creative Non-fiction and Biographical Studies, and the director of the MA Program in English in the Field of Creative Writing, who has taught at universities in France, India and Canada. Born in Montreal, she received her B.A. from McGill University, an M.A. from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex. She has travelled widely in Europe and Latin America, and has published in numerous magazines and literary journals, including Saturday Night, Toronto Life, This Magazine, Quill & Quire, The Malahat Review, Descant, and Books in Canada. She has taught at universities in France, India and British Columbia, and is currently a Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

Her latest book, Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape and a House in Marseille (HarperCollins) won the Canadian Jewish Book Prize for Non-Fiction in 2006. It was published in Canada, the U.S., England, Spain, Brazil, and the Czech Republic and is scheduled to appear in Italy. She is the author of eleven books including Cuba: Grace Under Pressure with photographs by Malcolm David Batty (2003); Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion, and Romantic Obsession (2001) published in Canada, the U.S., England, Spain, and Latin America; and the national best seller The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out (1998).Her 1995 biography Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction, the Canadian Author's Association Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the University of British Columbia's Medal for Canadian Biography, the City of Toronto Book Award and was nominated for the Trillium prize. It became the basis for Brenda Longfellow's award-winning documentary Shadow Maker (1998). Sullivan's first biography, By Heart: Elizabeth Smart/A Life (1991) was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. Her first poetry collection The Space a Name Makes (1986) won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. In 2001, Black Moss Press released Memory-Making: The Selected Essays of Rosemary Sullivan that included essays published in Canadian and International magazines.

Her journalistic pieces have won her a National Magazine Awards silver medal and a Western Journalism Awards first prize for travelogue. She is the recipient of Guggenheim, Killam, and Jackman fellowships. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada for her distinguished contribution to Canadian literature and culture. A Montrealer by birth, Rosemary Sullivan received her B.A. from McGill University, her M.A. from the University of Connecticut, and her Ph.D. from theUniversity of Sussex.

Happy Reading,

Cindi Emond