Elizabeth Carpenter is preparing for her fiftieth wedding anniversary and hoping that her children will come home for the event. She nurses her irritable, invalid husband, a retired teacher, who has been a rigid father and is now bedridden with a chronic illness. He is too proud to ask for the things he needs or wants, and spends his vacant hours comparing what he perceives as the dull, dutiful Elizabeth to the "other woman" he loved long ago.

Their oldest child, Victoria, once a fragile beauty full of promise, is institutionalized for a chronic mental illness characterized by irrational fears and self-doubt. The middle child, Jason, is a psychiatrist who has been unable to establish trusting relationships and seeks affirmation through multiple sexual adventures. The youngest child is Emily, a concert violinist whose way of achieving peace is to live abroad, avoiding commitments and her family from whom she is hiding the fact of her own son, Adam. But the reunion leads them to revisit relationships and events in the past and results in some surprises for their present and future.


The story unfolds through the multiple perspectives of the different individuals, as they each recall the same events from startlingly different points of view. A fragile gazebo in the family garden is the focal point of many memories, and seems to represent the fragmentary state of family bonds.

Relying heavily on musical metaphors and the significance of childhood trauma, Hospital allows her reader to uncover some--but not all--of the psychic underpinnings of her characters, who emerge more or less changed by the reunion. By the end of the novel, all, including the reader, have had their assumptions challenged.


Nominated for the Booker prize. Portions of this novel previously published won First Prize for magazine fiction (1982) from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters.


McClelland & Stewart

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