Reviews & News

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Sister Language

The Toronto Star asks Martha what the Trillium Book Award nomination means for Sister Language.


The Malahat Review  ” … a guided walk through the creative archives of two writers, with the bonus of listening to them discuss their doubts and discoveries in loving and copious detail.”

— Tanis MacDonald
Read the full review >>

Martha and her sister’s book is so remarkable and, that rarest of things, original. It seems to be what Virginia Woolf called “a conversation into posterity.”

— Howard Norman

In Sister Language, Christina Baillie writes, LANGUAGE BELIEVES IN THE PATIENT’S REAL EXISTENCE, but this book makes clear that she and her sister Martha believe that language can also be a place of play, trust, exploration, great tenderness and the profound expression of the strangeness, pain and beauty of having a life.

This intimate and attentive correspondence between these two sisters who are both writers is an ode to relationship, understanding, communication, love, and trust as well as the possibilities and negotiations of disability, sisterhood and a life lived through language. This is a remarkable and moving epistolary novel that thinks deeply about what writing is and what it means to share both writing and one’s self.

— Gary Barwin

Christina chose to take her own life. What she has left behind is an invaluable document testifying to the creativity and profound poetic sensitivity of her life and work. The last line of the book, repeated from an earlier letter and addressed to her younger sister, takes the form of a question. “Martha, Martha, do you? See?” As a result of the courage and clarity of this startling work, we are privileged to be granted insight, understanding, and appreciation.

— Steven W. Beattie
More at That Shakespearean Rag >>

There is something in this book that can’t be contained, that can’t be held on a page, even if it is “only” language. Even if it’s only made out of words. There’s something unbound, something wild, and an unexpected tenderness in the midst of that wildness. To be invited to witness, to be allowed to share the experience of these two sisters in the playground of this book, it feels so rare. I want to say thank you to Martha for making the impossible necessary, for taking the risk, for keeping faith, for answering the call.

— Mike Hoolboom
More at Mike Hoolbloom >>

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Praise for If Clara

The Toronto Star – Trevor Corkum

“Martha Baillie fans, rejoice. If Clara finds Baillie at the top of her game with this complex, deftly layered new novel, her sixth.”  See review >>

Quill & Quire – Shazia Hafiz Ramji

“… Like Muriel Barbery and Enrique Vila-Matas, writers who are steeped in eccentric characters and literary metafiction across generations, Baillie’s novel will appeal to many and please the literary-minded too.”  See review >>

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Sales soar of translated Search For Heinrich Schlögel, following review in Le Monde:

Alice Zeniter

« Formidable roman. (…) La traduction révèle son extrême qualité : Paule Noyart traduit ce roman, qui bascule de la minutie du travail d’archive à l’extraordinaire fracas des glaciers qui avalent le temps, avec une précision que j’admire. La beauté concise de certaines phrases arrête net la lecture. »

“Terrific novel. (…) The translation reveals its exceptional quality: Paule Noyart translates this novel, which swings between the minutia of archival work and the extraordinary crashing of glaciers swallowing time, with a precision I admire. The concise beauty of certain sentences stops you in your tracks.”

And ..

Frédérique Fanchette, Libération

« Le lecteur à la suite de l’enquêtrice lit des choses qui ne lui sont pas destinées, le « je » de Schlögel prend corps et se dérobe en même temps. Dans sa fuite, le héros a toujours un temps d’avance. C’est le charme de ce roman dont les bas de page sont occupés par les nombreuses notes de l’archiviste et de la traductrice, à simple, double et triple astérisques, comme autant d’empreintes animales dans la neige. »

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BRICK reviews The Search For Heinrich Schlögel:

 In her comprehensive review for Brick, Kate Caley finds an “ethics of memory” in Martha’s work.

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The Iowa Review:

Martha’s work Topographies chosen by The Iowa Review – one of the oldest literary journals in the US.  Details here >>

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Toronto Star discovers The Schlogel Archive at Koffler:

Martha Baillie’s installation of The Schlogel Archive, based on her novel on the mysterious disappearance of a young German man on Baffin Island …. see the article.

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The Search For Heinrich Schlögel – in French:

Quebec publisher, Lemeac, will be publishing The Search for Heinrich Schlogel in french. Award winning translator, Paule Noyart, will do the translation.

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Praise for The Search For Heinrich Schlögel:

The Literary Review of Canada: Revealing, puzzling, dazzling, The Search For Heinrich Schlögel resists reduction, rewards rereading.

Martha Baillie listed as one of nine great Canadian contemporary writers, for The Search For Heinrich Schlögel.

“Martha Baillie has written a timeless masterpiece. Every page is full of haunting wonderment. Truly, I know of no novel quite like it—it’s a blessing. The Search for Heinrich Schlögel has dreamlike locutions, it tells the most unusual tale, and it brings the margins of the world to us with photographic immediacy. I was completely transported.”

Howard Norman, author of Next Life Might Be Kinder

“Baillie delivers a work of magical realism that captures the experience of postcolonial guilt … and gives voice to a silenced past.”

— Starred and boxed Publishers Weekly

“The Search for Heinrich Schlögel is utterly distinctive, a fictional biography that drifts so imperceptibly into dream that it’s impossible to tell where the reality of it ends and the fantasy begins. There’s something of Nabokov here, and also something of Rip Van Winkle. Baillie has written an ode to those things that resist time, like a photograph, and those things that relinquish themselves to it, like a painting, resulting in a novel that is itself a little bit of both.”

Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination

“Capacious, capricious, mischievous, The Search for Heinrich Schlögel moves like a quantum experiment, defying boundaries of time, place, chronology. Fluid as light itself, animated by startling imagery, vivid and peculiar characters, The Search for Heinrich Schlögel is a hymn to brooding memory, the enduring need to inhabit story, and a haunting insistence upon endless possibilities within possibility. That is to say, hope.”

Gina Ochsner, author of The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight

“Martha Baillie’s extraordinary The Search for Heinrich Schlögel is not quite like any other book I’ve read. It invites us on a hallucinatory journey to the Arctic and through time. It asks us to live with mystery and wonder, which is what a work of art does. If it reminds me of anything, it is the fabulous, shape-shifting novels of the Icelandic writer Sjón.”

Catherine Bush, author of The Rules of Engagement and Accusation

“How is it possible to find a person who doesn’t know he’s missing? How can we be entangled in the world, in history, and live a moral life? Heinrich Schlögel doesn’t give up his secrets easily, but as time collapses and opens, an extraordinary person, and an astonishing reading experience, come into existence. Martha Baillie’s new novel is entirely original, remembered yet created, truthful yet fictional, old, alive and visionary.”

Madeleine Thien, author of Dogs at the Perimeter

” … a philosophic, absorbing read on photography, the North, colonialism, ethnography, and the nature of time.”    more >

 The Globe & Mail

“A ghostly voice telling the tale of a missing man who fell through a hole in time, the archivist shimmers mysteriously, an apparition whose full story we cannot know.”  more >

 Brett Josef Grubisic, National Post


Chosen as Globe & Mail’s Jade Colbert’s 5 favourite small press books of the year   more >

Top Pick for 2014 – Quill & Quire.   more >

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The 49th Shelf, Recommends The Incident Report

“…it’s a book lover’s book, a library patron’s book, a book of a thousand books, a book that is open to the world, no matter what world we come from.”

Read the recommendation.

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Tin House Press in the USA discovers The Incident Report

Read their blog posting here.

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The Incident Report comes out on top in Another Story Bookshop’s competition!

Six Canadian authors were chosen by  bookstore staff who posted video promotions for their favorites.  The reading public cast their votes, and The Incident Report won!

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Giller Prize Longlist for the Incident Report

Martha Baillie’s Incident Report is chosen for the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist; one of 12 Canadian authors up for the prize.

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Canada Also Reads: The Longlist;  nominates The Incident Report.  This new ‘longlist’ is The Afterword’s shadow competition to the CBC’s yearly Canada Reads Competition.

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The Incident Report chosen for The Globe And Mail’s 12th annual pick of the 100 best and most influential books of the year.

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Steph Vandermeulen nominates The Incident Report for Keep Toronto Reading: see YouTube review.

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Praise for The Incident Report

“A beautiful derangement. Martha Bailie’s novel references everything from Satie’s Variations to the Brothers Grimm. Along the way, it offers readers the utter virtues of getting completely lost.”

“Baillie is a subtle portraitist and creates an engaging heroine with rich psychological nuance.”

“Baillie’s unsettling dreamscape … seems to speak to a host of unsaid violations… But all is not darkness. The Incident Report is also very funny.”

The Globe & Mailsee full review

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“Baillie has written a book that gives new life to the Canadian novel.”


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“You won’t enter a Toronto public library in the same way after reading Martha Baillie’s haunting new novel…. Read this in one or two sittings so its gallery of colourful characters feels as real as people you pass on the street every day.”

Now Magazie

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“Baillie’s novel contains real tenderness, rendered in beautiful prose with compelling restraint.”

Quill & Quire

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“Part of living in a city is dealing with the extreme public realm and density created and the “crazy” people that populate its edges. When everyone piles around a table on a sweaty summer evening and begins to share stories about the “guy swearing to himself on the bus this morning” or “the woman who walked into the coffee shop today petting an imaginary dog” they vocalize those events for a number of reasons: fear, humor, pure disbelief.” …

Agora Review –  Aaron Tucker

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… “Memory is like a deck of cards, Kristjana Gunnars once wrote, each card reacting to the one that came before, and so does Baillie’s novel, working and winding its own way through the reader.” …

rob mclennan’s blog – see full review

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Praise for The Shape I Gave You:

“[T]he story pleasantly seduces you. . . . There are so many strengths . . . [The Shape I Gave You] does what the best novels do: it not only takes you deep into the characters and their beliefs and preoccupations, it makes you reflect on the choices you made in your own life.”

Winnipeg Free Press

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“[W]e put down the book commending Baillie not only for the poetic grace of her prose, but for her masterful delivery of an exquisite plot twist. . . . The novel’s precise, multi-faceted construction includes astute commentary upon the nature of letter-writing and of literature . . . This is a novel to savour rather than devour. Essentially monogamous people plagued by a singular adulterous temptation of the nostalgic kind will want to send Baillie a thank you note, for understanding.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

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“Haunting…. What would you do in such a situation, with no one to unburden your heart to? The best novels pose such compelling moral questions, and this is a very good novel. . . . A literary style that occasionally echoes both Anne Michaels and Elizabeth Smart. . . . Full of finely wrought detail. . . . These are grown-up thoughts and this is a grown-up, rather European-feeling
–Bronwyn Drainie, Quill & Quire

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“The Shape I Gave You is a richly evocative story about Ulrike, a musician trapped in the recurring themes of her father’s adultery. She is forced to exhume dead loves and lives in this sophisticated novel about how the past haunts the present.”
–Sandra Martin, Elle Canada

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“[An] old-fashioned quality . . . gives Baillie’s work its charm and elegance. Her stories have weight and value history. . . . Baillie’s made a strong statement on the pain of grief and the unexpected way in which compassion can be sown. She’s also shown that with each new novel her voice becomes stronger.”
–NOW (Toronto)

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Praise for Madame Balashovskaya’s Apartment:

“What I would give to be invited to a soiree in Madame Balashovskaya’s apartment…..Baillie gives richness to these lives in a book filled with beautiful writing.”
The Globe and Mail (Laura Robinson)

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“….the portrait of Eugenie is a heart stopping evocation of a life’s slow fade…..Baillie conveys both the beauty and the beastliness of the rain-soaked metropolis, its café culture and the pointed ambitions of its intelligentsia, in what turns out to be a nugget of a novel.”
Now (Toronto), Susan G. Cole

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Praise for My Sister Esther:

“….impressive for its language, superb characterization and almost quiet desperation of day to day living… Baillie gives us a sincere, unpretentious novel that impresses, even haunts.”
–Rob McLennan, Ottawa X Press

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