Girls Fall Down: An Online Symposium

The Soul and the City

by Andre Forget

One of the most remarkable features of Girls Fall Down is the way in which Maggie Helwig has managed to write the city of Toronto into existence. The well-documented Canadian obsession with place is in full bloom in this novel, but the Toronto Helwig creates is not Michael Ondaatje’s Toronto (which is fundamentally a place of rebirth), nor is it Robertson Davies’ Toronto in The Cunning Man, which is thoroughly colonial. Helwig’s Toronto is a place haunted at once by profound loneliness and an almost terrifying sense of connection. Much of the novel’s beauty is derived from how totally the author embraces this paradox; its genius, however, lies in the unflinching way in which Helwig uses the city to investigate the individual and the individual to interrogate the city. Continue reading

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