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The Fire Dwellers
Margaret Laurence
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The Fire Dwellers (Manawaka Sequence)

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  1,092 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Stacey MacAindra burns – to burst through the shadows of her existence to a richer life, to recover some of the passion she can only dimly remember from her past.

The Fire-Dwellers is an extraordinary novel about a woman who has four children, a hard-working but uncommunicative husband, a spinster sister, and an abiding conviction that life has more to offer her than the te
Published by Macmillan (first published 1969)
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I remember one particular camping trip we took as a family. I don't remember how old I was - probably pre-teens at any rate. It was after dinner and my father and brother were going fishing. I wanted to go fishing with them too, but I had to stay behind and help my mother with the dishes and putting things away. It was a pivotal moment in my life and I distinctly remember thinking, "If this is what it means to be a woman, I don't want any part of it!"

The fantastic Canadian author, Margaret Laur
Jul 29, 2016 Hillary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I zoomed through this book! It's an easy read, but highly enjoyable and engaging.

The book is narrated by both the author and through the voice of the main character, Stacey MacAindra. She's a 1960s housewife with 4 kids, living in the suburbs of Vancouver. Her husband, Mac, is a salesman - at first for an essential oils company, and then later for a bogus vitamin company called Richalife. Stacey is a bit bored with being a mother, with being left alone all the time with her kids, with her uncomm
Mar 25, 2013 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ladybird, ladybird,
Fly away home;
Your house is on fire,
Your children are gone.

So begins The Fire-Dwellers, with Stacey MacAindra, formerly of Manawaka, Manitoba, now a suburban Vancouver housewife and mother of four, nearly 40, torn between flying away and flying home; dwelling in the fires there until her children need her no more. I read this book for the first time when my eldest daughter was first born, and although I didn't feel trapped in suburban ennui, I could recognise the truth of Stac
Jasreet Badyal
Aug 26, 2013 Jasreet Badyal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was exceptionally well-written. I was superbly impressed with the skillfulness of Laurence's creation of characters and the depth of personality that she created.

At the core of it, it was about the difficulty of relating to others, expressing ourselves, and the sensation of being trapped in your head. Despite being in a totally different life situation from the protagonist, I found her challenges absolutely relatable and, in some ways, I felt like I understood my own mother better.

I also ap
Aug 30, 2014 Tanya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I found this book a little hard to read with the unusual dialogue and writing format, I still greatly enjoyed this story of a fearful and trapped 60s housewife. I found the subject matter quite racy for the time it was written but I could identify with many of Stacey's fears and thoughts and ideas. Being a stay at home mom myself, I appreciated the honesty that she expressed towards the care she gave her kids and how she sometimes felt trapped but still worried about them so immensely. I ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Feb 03, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
A novel that must have made quite a sensation on first release, capturing with amazing detail the dawn of post-60s women's liberation and questioning the position of homemaker, housewife, and mother in the suburbs of modern city life. In fact, the label "contemporary" wouldn't have done it enough justice, even for 1969. Reading it now, it's a remarkable historical artifact that maintains its power in spite of so much time having passed, and the monumental changes that have occurred in society. T ...more
May 18, 2012 Pooker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, fiction
It is rare for me to read a book a second time. There are too many more to be read. Newer and sparklier. But of course there will not be any more new and sparkly books from this author and that makes me sad. I discovered Margaret Laurence at the same time as I discovered Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. In the late sixties and early seventies I gobbled down everything they had written up to that point. What glorious gluttony! I've continued to read my faves and it gave me heart palpitations when ...more
Canadian literature has seemed, at least to me, haunted by the reputations of the two Margarets, Atwood and Laurence. When I was younger I avoided their books like the plague. I had dim impressions of serious, dour stories about Native girls in small town Manitoba where nothing interesting ever happens. As a teenager I would much rather take refuge in the thick arms of swords-and-sorcery tomes.

Older and wiser, or so I like to think, I finally got around to actually reading a Margaret Laurence bo
Jun 20, 2010 Veronica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mooched, fiction
This was a bit slow to get going, but in the end I liked it. The style is slightly offputting to start with -- it's Stacey's internal monologue, interspersed with speech. But you get used to it, and it's an effective way of getting inside Stacey's head. The paperback publisher did Laurence a disservice again, as with A Jest of God: "The poignant novel of a woman searching desperately for new love". That's not what it's about. The book was published in 1969, and Stacey is the embodiment of the "p ...more
Deanna McFadden
Nov 01, 2013 Deanna McFadden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My love for Laurence knows no bounds--but it's really only based on a small part of her writing--A Bird in the House and The Diviners, which are among my favourites in Canadian literature. So, having never read The Fire-Dwellers, I was pleased it was my book club pick for this month. No bookstores around me carried the novel, and I found it a bit hard to get used to in ebook format, simply because it's a very stream of conscience-esque book that uses punctuation to pivot your attention between d ...more
Sasha Boersma
Read this after Jest of God, expecting a similar writing pace. Maybe I should have had more of a break between the two.

I really struggled to follow the narrative - who said what and what was a Stacie thought. I had to stop halfway through to try to reframe, and couldn't stick with it - skimming the last few chapters.

The story itself is valuable - the isolation of Canadian housewives in the 60s when everyone moved and had distance between their new home and their hometowns. It also portrayals mar
Rosie Shephard
May 31, 2016 Rosie Shephard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very emotional and moving book! I really enjoyed the unique and interesting writing/dialogue style; throughout the novel, Laurence incorporates both Stacey's thoughts, stories, and memories into the text.

Stacey MacAindra is desperate to escape the prison of her monotonous life - she misses her youth and laments her role as a housewife. She has four kids and an uncommunicative and quiet husband, who works relentlessly to keep his job. She explores middle-age and searches for passion a
Jun 07, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another beautiful offering from Laurence. A subject that is a bit beyond me, the idea of being (maybe and probably unhappily) married, life with kids, life as a 39-year-old woman. And yet, a book written so that I could kind of grasp what that life is like. Which is the sign of a good book. Some devastatingly beautiful lines in here, the theme of fire burning deep in the belly (and the loins) and baptism by fire and being thrown into the fire and hardened by fire. This book is a testament to the ...more
Apr 13, 2010 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-content
Some adult content. A Margaret Laurence novel that I am rereading before my exam on Thursday. The book was written in 1969, at which time I was the same age as Stacey's youngest boy. Reminds me a lot of my childhood except that my parents were not quite as angst-ridden as Stacey and her husband (at least I don't think so)! I remember nearly drowning at the University of Manitoba pool - much like Duncan in the novel. I am sure that my mother was pretty freaked out in much the same way that Stacey ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, read-2009
A reread...the character of Stacey becomes more and more compelling as the book progresses. I hadn't remembered the connections between The Fire Dwellers and A Jest of God and The Stone Angel: impressive writing. At one point all the diffeent narrative techniques became problematic until I realized that I simply wasn't paying close enough attention - Laurence obviously expected a reader to do her share! I am now inspired to reread the others in the Manawaka series.
Jul 12, 2012 Jenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Always worth a re-read, although as I get older and have more kids my perspective shifts on the themes in the book. As usual I finish this book feeling glad I'm Gen-X. Laurence's sense of voice in this novel comes through strongly with the breaths and gasps and oppressive sense of the mundane. Stacey's choices stumble along, like her behaviour at parties on Valium and booze and yet you stay on her side.
Jun 09, 2012 Martha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, canlit
I love Margaret Laurence.

I bought a copy of The Fire-Dwellers eight or nine years ago but never picked it up. I think it's better, though, that I waited to read it until I was just that little bit older. Stacey's life and marriage are kind of terrifying. Not beyond hope -- and probably easier to fall into than one might think -- but still. Scary.
Josephine Ensign
This book started off strong for me and I quickly grew to like the main character, the oh-so realistically neurotic smart, conflicted mother of four, Stacey. But it quickly spiraled into an eye-rolling mess of a book and I quickly grew more than tired with oh-so neurotic Stacey. I made it through to the end—but barely.
Jun 17, 2010 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was more experimental in technique than The Stone Angel or A Jest of God. It contains mostly narration -- some of it between characters, some of it internal monologue, and some fanciful meanderings. The main character, Stacy, is a housewife and mother of four children who is not quite satisfied with her life and not quite sure of herself.
Mar 26, 2012 Rennie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You definitely could feel Stacey's pain and loneliness. The style both contributed and detracted but overall it was an interesting depiction of life at that time in general and for the main character at 40.
Sep 30, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-fiction
This is another book by Margaret Lawrence that I read a long time ago and do not remember the story line except that I liked it the first time around. We have two copies of this book too and fortunately my copy is a discard from the library which means it is just ripe for marking it up as my own!
Serena Janes
May 30, 2013 Serena Janes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some people get sick of being stuck inside the head of a neurotic housewife. But Laurence does such a good job of keeping us there. Beautiful, completely realistic story of domestic malaise and disappointment. My kind of read.
Frank De
This was OK, but I thought the first two books were stronger as far as story and characters go.
But I will go for the 4th and last novel in this series! The first 2 gave so much reading pleasure!! :)
Dec 03, 2016 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2010 Kailin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
you can feel the struggles of this main character, even if you are not from her generation.
Feb 01, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Margaret Lawrence's Manawaka novels, but this one fell oddly flat beside the others...
Mar 17, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful with the stream of consciousness found in the main character's life as a mother.
May 29, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few other Margaret Laurence books and have enjoyed them. They never seem to be a book that you can't put down but there is a familiar quality about the life of these "normal people"
Jun 18, 2009 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and stunning so far.
Feb 25, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Found this dark and depressing
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Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926 in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada. Both of her parents passed away in her childhood, and Laurence was raised by her aunt and maternal grandfather.

Laurence decided in childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began writing stories in elementary school. Her professional writing career began in 1943 with a job at the
More about Margaret Laurence...

Other Books in the Series

Manawaka Sequence (5 books)
  • The Stone Angel
  • A Jest of God
  • A Bird in the House
  • The Diviners

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“What goes on inside isn't ever the same as what goes on outside.” 35 likes
“Everything drifts. Everything is slowly swirling, philosophies tangled with the grocery lists, unreal-real anxieties like rose thorns waiting to tear the uncertain flesh, nonentities of thoughts floating like plankton, green and orange particles, seaweed -- lots of that, dark purple and waving, sharks with fins like cutlasses, herself held underwater by her hair, snared around auburn-rusted anchor chains.” 5 likes
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