Suzette Mayr’s Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall (2017)

It’s not quite as bad as Edith’s dreams. Not quite.

But almost. And that’s because Suzette Mayr has a way of writing that pricks beneath the skin.

“That night Edith dreams of hares. Hares hanging by their necks, throttled by catgut in a thicket of trees. Someone has executed them, hares the size of small birds, their soft, drooping bodies. All dead. Their long ears dangling, the half-closed yellow eyes. Hares hanging like grisly earrings from the branches. Edith wakes abruptly in her brand-new condominium building of shiny chrome and concrete, the walls painted with interior design catalogue shades of grey she picked herself, the grey of time dripping away as grey water.”

And it’s not shiny chrome and concrete. It’s peeling chrome and musty foundations.

Silver peelings that stick to you like spiderwebs. A smell that provokes a migraine.

But it’s also hilarious. At times.

Except when it’s all talk of decomposition.

“…haven’t you noticed how sick all our colleagues are? The medical leaves? Froese’s nervous breakdown? The general nuttiness about semi-colons and rampant incompetence? You think that’s all a coincidence? Don’t you feel like what we’re trying to accomplish is becoming more and more impossible?”

And, then it gets real, see?

Because don’t you feel like that sometimes?

The “more and more impossible” bit?

And aren’t things at Crawley Hall just a little too recognizable? I don’t know any perogie royalty, but I recognize the ooze. Don’t you?

“The dean shoots for Mona Leung, the perogie heiress and philanthropist with her seventy-year-old yoga-and-golf body, who’s appeared in the doorway, her fingers and earlobes chunked with diamond, her hair a svelte white bob. Students and professors ooze up to her.”

Edith’s working world is a challenge. Her class in “Canadian Literature before 1950″ is “as exciting as a buckwheat pancake” and she, the teacher, is “lump and undercooked”. But Edith? “I’m just happy to have a job,” she says.

But happy is a stretch. “All she has ever wanted is to read books. Write books. Talk about, sleep with, breathe, shit, and eat books. Maybe find true love with someone like her who understand the crucial, necessary, life-giving essence of books.”

Her dreams haven’t turned out as she dreamed. After all, all those bloody hares. They make it hard to turn the pages.

Suzette Mayr’s books are unforgettable.


Suzette Mayr's 2011 novel

One of my favourites of the reading year and nominated for the 2011 Giller Prize



  1. Naomi September 11, 2017 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Yes, that helps! Although, really, it just makes me want to read them both all the more.
    I love multiple narrators. But Edith also sounds like a fun character. And now I’d like to read them both just to see if I agree with your comparison. 🙂 But, I have some others to read first… ha!

    • Naomi September 11, 2017 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      Oh whoops, my reply is in the wrong spot.

      • Buried In Print September 14, 2017 at 8:19 am - Reply

        And now my reply to your reply is also out-of-order. The bookish world is a-tilt. And I wish I could code to make things right! 😀

    • Buried In Print September 14, 2017 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Just a few others, I’m sure. Maybe it’ll appear on next week’s Giller longlist and give you another reason to read it!

  2. Monica (aka monnibo) September 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    I read Monoceros a while ago… and remember liking it but thinking it was weird. I’ve got a copy of this but I’m waiting for the right feeling to hit me before I read.

    • Buried In Print September 11, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      That’s just what I did! When you’re “ready for weird”, you’ll have it close by. One of the thinss that I find interesting about her weird stories, though, is how – simultaneously – parts of them feel just so ordinary. Which, I guess, is exactly what makes the weirdness all the weirder.

  3. Naomi September 11, 2017 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    I have this book out from the library right now. But I’ve already renewed it twice, so I’m not sure if I’m going to get to it this time around. It sounds quirky… is it quirky?
    I’ve also had Monoceros on my list a long time. Did you read it? Which one do you prefer?

    • Buried In Print September 11, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      That’d be fair to say: quirky. It’s difficult to choose betweem those two because I love novels that spend time with the kind of work that characters do and the nitty-gritty of their everyday lives and I love coming-of-age stories, and Suzette Mayr handles both kinds of stories skilfully. But I suppose I prefer Monoceros because it gives readers multiple voices, whereas here we have Edith all the way. Most readers probably prefer single-voice narratives – for stability and continuity – but there are so many neat characters in this one, too, that I would’ve loved to hear their voices also, in a kind of collage (although the advantage of sticking with Edith is that you are left to wonder if she is simply losing her grip or all these weird things are truly happening). Does that help?

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