No Place Strange cover
No Place Strange
A finalist for the 2009 First Novel Award.
Hardcover, 327 pp
ISBN-13: 978-1-55470-137-7
ISBN-10: 1-55470-137-6
Key Porter Books, Toronto, 2009

Synopsis: “A novel about connections made and lost, No Place Strange follows four people affected by the actions of a female terrorist named Rafa Ahmed. Lydia is a young Jewish Canadian woman running from the truth about her father’s involvement with Rafa, who may be implicated in his murder. Lydia escapes to Greece, where she meets Farid, a young Lebanese man who has left his home for Athens. Farid’s mother Mariam, once Rafa’s professor, is struggling to maintain a normal life in Beirut in the midst of civil war, while his cousin Mouna is a political activist dangerously obsessed with Rafa. Lydia and Farid fall in love, but any possibility for real happiness is jeopardized by Arab–Israeli hostilities, the capriciousness of fate, and a past that neither of them can quite escape.

Bryden weaves these stories together with a poet’s precision of language and a candid view of human nature, exploring the tension between two violently opposing worlds–between truth and belief–while spinning an achingly believable love story.”

Advance praise for No Place Strange…

No Place Strange is beautifully and tautly written, the work of a humane novelist wise to the subtleties of character that emerge even during periods of swift, shocking event. Diana Fitzgerald Bryden conveys both the political and the deeply personal aspects of tumultuous times with an emotional and intellectual resonance that remains entirely, tragically pertinent.”  —Joan Barfoot, author of Exit Lines and Luck

What reviewers are saying…

From Now Magazine: “You’d have to be crazy to make satisfying fiction out of a complex political situation that pisses off everybody on all sides.
So give Diana Fitzgerald Bryden credit for pulling it off—especially given the tangle of relationships she sets up.
The year is 1986, and Lebanon is embroiled in a devastating civil war. Mariam is a professor and one-time teacher of glamour-girl terrorist Rafa. Her niece Mouna is a budding activist herself and a bit too impressed with Rafa.
Adding to the mix is Farid, Mariam’s son, who falls in love with Torontonian Lydia, a Jewish woman who’s been touring Greece and has her own connection to Rafa: her journalist father may have had an affair with her.
These links loosen and tighten as the story unfolds, but Bryden keeps us focused thanks to her profound empathy for people, no matter where they’re situated in the conflict.
She deals with Rafa’s charisma with uncommon subtlety. Is the wannabe hijacker a hero to her people or a villain with undue influence on troubled souls?
Is Farid just another sulking male who doesn’t get his way or a traumatized youth who’s lost his ability to trust?
Sometimes the smallest detail makes the biggest impression. A sequence where Mariam tries to make her morning coffee while bombs rain down close to her house demonstrates a poet’s attention to small things.
Bryden is, by the way, a poet-turned-novelist, which is why the language is so consistently strong… No Place Strange is a courageous take on an incendiary theme.” —Now Magazine

“Bryden’s third-person narration keeps its distance, making no judgments and sensibly narrowing the points of view to four… The series of linkages between two widely separated families suggests an author shrewdly manipulating pieces on a story board, but the effect is of a clarifying bird’s-eye view. The map of dovetailing plots is a pleasure to read. […] As the story grows in complication, Bryden keeps us firmly on track. The deadlocked enmities of Beirut, and the cynical hypocrisy they breed among outsiders and insiders alike, fuel a volatile love story entwined with a subtle meditation on the roots of terror. Highly ambitious, this first book is unexpectedly mature in construction and theme. Though Bryden can be overly fussy with quotidian details…these are at most minor distractions from her real purpose and achievement: the intimate probing of diverse lives beset by grief, love and rage. Her closing pages are equally an opening: a precarious moment of calm and fragile trust, suggesting just enough hope.” —The Globe and Mail

“[An] accomplished first novel […] In No Place Strange, [Bryden’s] poetic gifts are largely manifested in her keen eye, her ability to inhabit the moment, and in her precise delineation of human emotion. At the same time her prose is utterly confident—stylish and commanding.”  —Donna Bailey Nurse, The Ottawa Citizen

“This is an ambitious literary novel…”  —Winnipeg Free Press

“No Place Strange is entertaining in a thought-provoking way. It’s a well-crafted story in which… there is much to discover.”  —Rebecca Wigod, Vancouver Sun

“Those familiar with Bryden’s poetry will recognize her signature voice, straightforward and bold…. No Place Strange is a complex and ambitious debut novel that succeeds on many levels. The female characters are especially strong, and Bryden paints a picture of life in wartorn Beirut that is both tragic and mundane.”  —Quill and Quire

“In her debut novel, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden crafts a story ripe for cable TV, filled with violence, generational conflict, global intrigue and sex that’s too hot for the networks. She provides cliffhanger lines at the end of quick-cut chapters and takes us to telegenic locations such as Beirut, Athens and Mykonos before her characters settle down to unpack their overlapping histories in Montreal and Toronto.” —National Post

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Clinic Day (poetry)
Trade paperback, 123 pp
ISBN: 1-894078-39-X
Brick Books, London, ON, 2004

Synopsis: “…The reader follows the steps of three characters — the secretary, the surgeon and the derelict Blake — as they enact an intricate urban dance of separateness and (usually unseen) connection. Lyrics with the hardness and sparkle of gemstones are set among meditations on love, illness, loneliness, displacement, and longing. Disciplined and delicate, with incandescent flashes of wit and anger, these poems and their characters show us what it is to be ‘more human, more humane’.”

“Singularly arresting … a rare contemporary book of poetry that maintains a narrative while each individual lyric is polished enough to be a tile in the gritty and glorious mosaic of the imagined city. The subtle music of these poems… retains the resonant appeal of song, while firmly grounded in the ecstatic attention of poetry.” —The Malahat Review

“[A] fascinating journey through art, medicine, and the accidental happenings of a city. It is bold and brilliant. Diana Fitzgerald Bryden is a writer working at full stretch – original, intellectually inspiring, visionary.” —Helen Humphreys

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Learning Russian (poetry)
Trade paperback, 63 pp
ISBN: 1-894469-00-3
Mansfield Press, 2000

Synopsis: “Does the past mean only what we want it to? Can anything at all be learned from a photograph or a scrap of forgotten language? In Learning Russian, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden asks these and other questions with clear-eyed, compelling honesty, as she examines the seductive lure of the past. Rejecting easy nostalgia, she uncovers the roots of home in the hidden life of cities, in family ties to the living and the dead, and in language itself through the work of the writers who inspire her. The poems […] are haunted and haunting. Infused with longing and the certainty of loss, they show what can be recovered, or made new, through poetry.”

“Bryden’s collection is informed by a fierce poetic hunger that she has managed to harness and rein in to get close to even the hardest questions… poems nest here beside each other and in each poem a question is asked and the small bird of an answer responds, briefly leaving and then returning to its poem.”  —Jury, Pat Lowther Award

“A remarkable debut collection — precise, elegant; wild and eloquent.”  —Lynn Crosbie

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