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The Lion in the Room Next Door Hardcover – February 7, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Canadian writer Merilyn Simonds's first book is an exquisite, beguiling collection of interlinked stories. Rendering one woman's life from childhood into motherhood and middle age, The Lion in the Room Next Door begins in Brazil where the narrator is living in the Hotel Terminus with her parents and sisters, waiting for her father's new factory to be finished so they can move into a house. She spies on the other guests, even on her own father as he eats his breakfast alone, and is preoccupied by a sound she hears beneath the hotel's life, at night, a rumbling that "moves through the wall by my head," then "recedes like the tide." She goes searching for the source of the sound, slipping out of her bedroom at night, or dreaming she has slipped out. It is the sound of childhood enchantment, where everywhere you look you see a buried life.

As the book progresses, the narrator travels the world and crosses the threshold into her erotic life. Foreign places are full of the promise of sex and the threat of predatory men: the leering porter, the soldier with a gun on the beach who eyes her as she swims. Throughout she is involved in various complicated affairs, and sex moves more and more to the forefront of her story, becoming the thing that hums below the surface, the big mystery, the same mystery over and over. Alas, the narrator's preoccupation with her sexual power becomes a little tiresome--like a girlfriend who talks about men all the time, sometimes I wished Simonds would change the subject. Nevertheless The Lion in the Room Next Door is a formidable debut, full of shining moments and careful lyricism. --Emily White

From Publishers Weekly

Keenly observed, the stories that make up Simonds's second book (after the nonfiction The Convict Lover) chart the course of one woman's life, from her earliest apprehension of sex to her midlife intimations of mortality. Divided into three sections ("Saudades--Yearnings," "Lipes--Sorrows," and "Milagros--Miracles"), the 11 narratives take the unnamed Canadian narrator through several familiar rites of passage, including escape into an early marriage and a later decision to leave her husband. But in its particulars, the existence described is unfamiliar, even exotic. The narrator spends her '50s childhood in Brazil, lives her first years as a wife and mother traveling by van around Europe, raises her children on a subsistence farm in northern Canada and, breaking out of her marriage, travels to Mexico and Hawaii. Simonds writes about this life with a poet's attention to language and metaphor. In the exquisitely wrought title story, for instance, a leashed lion takes nocturnal walks through the halls of a Brazilian hotel, leaving "a faint scent of feline. A memory of topaz eyes." While the image captures a child's presentiment of sex, the story subtly suggests both the privilege and the loneliness of expatriate life. Indeed, Simonds masterfully juxtaposes her narrator's discordant feelings in all the richly layered narratives. At times, the resemblance to memoir grows irksome, as when information is withheld that might be too personal or when events are summarized that might be dramatized. More often, Simonds is brilliant in her silences, showing just enough and nothing more. Writing lapidary sentences, she has crafted stories so solid they seem sculpted, yet so delicate they remain full of mystery. (Feb.) FYI: The Convict Lover received the Arthur Ellis Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1st American ed edition (February 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399145915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399145919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,532,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1949, Merilyn Simonds spent her childhood in Brazil and was educated at the University of Western Ontario. As an award-winning freelance journalist, she published nine nonfiction books and scores of magazine articles on subjects ranging from the environment to soap-making, from art and architecture to war. From 1987 -1991 she was an associate editor at Harrowsmith Magazine and has been a contributing editor at Harrowsmith, Equinox, Canadian Geographic and Saturday Night Magazines.

With the release of The Convict Lover, published by Macfarlane, Walter & Ross in 1996, Simonds became nationally known as a literary writer, exploring the zone where fact and fiction meet. The Convict Lover was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction and was chosen as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 1996 by the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire Magazine, Elm Street Magazine and Maclean's. It was translated into Chinese, Japanese, and German, and in 1997, was adapted for the stage by the Kingston Summer Theatre Festival, premiering at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto in the fall of 1998. It is now considered a classic in Canadian creative nonfiction.

The Lion in the Room Next Door, Simonds's collection of linked, autobiographical stories, was published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart in 1999 to enthusiastic reviews and like The Convict Lover, became a national bestseller. The following year, it was published by Bloomsbury in England, by G.P. Putnam's Sons in the United States and by btb in Germany.

The Holding, published as McClelland & Stewart's lead fiction title in the spring of 2004, is Simonds's first novel. On the Canadian Booksellers' Association bestseller list for five months, it received unanimously favourable reviews. In the fall of 2005 it was published in the United States, where it was reviewed enthusiastically in the New York Times and later selected as an "Editor's Choice." The novel was published in Germany in 2007.

In 2005, her short story "Miss You Already" was published in Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her short fiction has been anthologized internationally and was recently included in a special issue of Journal of the Americas on Canadian literature and art. She has edited two anthologies: A Literary Companion to Gardens (2008) and A Literary Companion to the Night (2009). In the fall of 2006, she was writer-in-residence at Green College, University of British Columbia, where she taught online courses for Booming Ground, the noncredit division of UBC's Creative Writing Programme. She also teaches creative writing at Kwantlen University and privately mentors writers working on both fiction and creative nonfiction projects. In 2009 she was writer in residence in Banff Alberta.

She is currently working on a collection of short fiction titled The Paradise Project as well as a novel, C and a travel memoir she is co-writing with Wayne Grady, Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels in America. On the first day of spring 2009, she launched her website,, wher she posts a weekly literary essay drawn from her garden at The Leaf.

Merilyn Simonds lives with writer and translator Wayne Grady on a small acreage north of Kingston, Ontario.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Syke27 on December 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book at a used book sale because the cover looked intriguing and I like to read all sorts of different books. The first chapter confused me slightly and I wasn't sure I'd like the book. The second story helped me understand why the first chapter was confusing and I came to the conclusion that Merilyn Simonds is a master storyteller. This book is through the eyes of on woman from childhood through adulthood. Just as your earliest childhood memories are confusing, so are hers. I realized when I was a child I took solace and comfort in certain perceptions and beliefs, that were not real. I have VIVID memories and emotional pulls to things, places and people that no longer intrigue me or anyone else. In short, this book is incredible. Her writing is precise, clear and thought provoking. Almost psycholoically stimulating in ways you never thought a book could be. This book quickly became a top ten favorite for me.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By on August 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Merilyn Simonds brings hope to those of us who have been instructed by our teachers and mentors to write about what we know best. In a series of personal vignettes, Simonds carefully recreates moments and situations from her past, turning them into art. A real page turner, this book has to be begun from the beginning every time it is picked up (I'm making it last!). The writer lets readers into the most private corners of her being ... and we recognize something of ourselves there.
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