Monday, July 25, 2011

Peter Behrens explores his family's past in The O'Briens

I spent a lot of time thinking about The O'Briens by Peter Behrens over the couple of weeks. Not only did I write about The O'Briens, but his blog tour made a stop here, and then I interviewed him for a profile over at the National Post (it was in Saturday's paper). Luckily for me, he has a lot of very interesting things to say. Here's a teaser of my Post piece:
Fifteen years ago, when Peter Behrens first sat down to write about his family, he got partway into the story before realizing he needed to go further back in time. Before he could tackle these characters, he felt he had to tell the story of their ancestors. It was a good move: The detour resulted in his 2006 novel The Law of Dreams, which went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award. But Behrens never really stopped working on his original ambition, and, after more than a decade of work, The O’Briens was published earlier this month.

This sprawling story follows the titular family for 70 years, but although the title makes it sound like a family saga, the novel is really all about the life of Behrens’ grandfather, Joe O’Brien, who died when Behrens was 17.

“I suddenly needed to find out everything I could about my grandfather,” says Behrens, whose granddaddy’s varied industrial career was well-documented. “He left a fairly wide paper trail, so I could find out certain facts about him and his business career … I’m not all that interested in genealogy or even family history as such, but I needed to know all that stuff, and it became clear to me that I was going to write it in a novel.”
Read more at The Afterword.

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