Don Gutteridge’s memories of growing up in Point Edward are so colourful and rich, he chose his hometown as the backdrop for his latest historical novel.
“Lily’s Story” is a sweeping period piece that recounts many key events in the history of Point Edward and Lambton County during the life of the fictional Lily.
“I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Point Edward,” says Gutteridge. “For me, it was a magical place with lots of great characters.”
The 76-year-old retired university prof lived in the village in the 1940s in a yellow brick house at the corner of Alexandra and Monk streets.
His novel begins 100 years earlier and spans a large portion of Lily’s long life from the age of seven to 82.
“I wrote it strictly from her point of view,” said Gutteridge. “It’s a long book. At 511 pages, it’s the longest work I ever wrote.”
That was likely why it took Gutteridge nearly 30 years to publish Lily’s Story in paperback. He wrote it in 1985 and set it aside when he couldn’t find a publisher. But Lily’s Story was the exception to a prolific writing career that has seen almost all his work published in a timely manner.
Altogether, Gutteridge has written 41 books of fiction, poetry and scholarly work.
Simon & Schuster published his five-book series, known as The Marc Edwards Mysteries, and many of his poems are recognized in the literary community for their historic references and engaging story telling.
Gutteridge taught at Western University for many years and continues to live in London.
He moved to Sarnia Township when he was 12, and later to Chatham, but his connection to Point Edward has remained strong.
“Six of my novels are set in Point Edward,” he said. “And I’ve written 100 poems about growing up in Point Edward during the war when all the dads were away and the moms would send us out to play all day.
“We had a great time.”
Point Edward during the fictional Lily’s life was far more populated than today and more of a commercial hub. Nearly 4,000 people lived in the village when it was an important port and the terminus for the Grand Trunk Railway.
“I use the actual street names. Events that entangle Lily really happened,” Gutteridge said. For instance, Prince Edward who visited Point Edward in 1860, figures in the book and fathers a child by Lily.
“They meet, a child results and the baby is taken away and given to a rich family in Toronto,” he explained. “There’s a great deal of sadness over her life.” But the book has comedic moments too.
“I talk about the politicians and pastors of the time and I have trouble doing that without seeing them through a comical lens,” he said.
Lily’s Story was published as an ebook last year and is available on line at Amazon and Chapters. In March, the paperback came out, published by Bev Editions and is available at The Book Keeper in Northgate Plaza.
– Cathy Dobson