U Girl is a coming-of-age tale about a small town girl who moves to Vancouver in 1972 to attend the University of British Columbia. As she seeks to discover and define herself among the new people she encounters in the unfamiliar city, she ponders the disparities between men and women and questions the relationship between love and sex.
Former UBC English Professor Meredith Quartermain has truly outdone herself this time. Through her poetic depictions of Vancouver landscapes and unique yet relatable characters, she weaves together a story that pulls the reader into the fictional reality residing within the pages of U Girl.
This bildungsroman is an extraordinary new addition to Canadian literature as Quartermain beautifully portrays British Columbia in her descriptions of Wreck Beach, Desolation Sound, and UBC among other local sites. This should make the novel an interesting read for UBC students who are acquainted with these places. Some students may even find themselves familiar with the protagonist’s experiences of taking notes in lecture halls and managing a crush on a professor. U Girl captures a number of details about life as a UBC student and even makes reference to the Ubyssey, as one of the characters is said to have written an article for it. This truly brings the characters to life as their relatable experiences allow them to seamlessly blend with reality. The fusion of fiction and reality is further achieved through metafiction as the protagonist seems to be drafting ideas for the novel that is being read. She contemplates how she should portray the individuals she encounters and how she herself should be depicted. Although it may seem perplexing at first, the self-referential nature of U Girl makes it a fascinating read for introspective readers.
Quartermain has made a name for herself as a Canadian writer through her previous literary works including Nightmarker and Recipes from the Red Planet. Her collection of poetry titled Vancouver Walking earned her the 2006 Book Award for Poetry.
The literary skill for which she is known nationwide is evident in her newest novel, U Girl. Quartermain possesses a talent for calling attention to real world problems as she brings the treatment of women into the spotlight, broaching the topic of domestic abuse when the protagonist overhears a dispute occurring in her building a few doors down.
Readers may begin seeing themselves in her shoes while reading the story, as her journey of self-discovery mirrors emotions and insecurities all too familiar to all who have tread the path to find their purpose and meaning in life. However, this does not mean that the protagonist, Frances Nelson, is in any way cliché. Frances has her own unique personality, which shines through in her voice as she narrates the story. Her curious and introspective nature reveals questions and shocking new perspectives that readers may not have considered before.
Readers should prepare themselves for a tidal wave of emotion, reflection, and new perceptions when they dive into Quartermain’s latest masterpiece.
Meredith Quartermain's U Girl is published by Talonbooks. It is 272 pages and costs $19.95. More information is available here.