Rosalind Gill moved away from Newfoundland and Labrador in 1971, but she took her home province’s storytelling tradition with her.
Born in Corner Brook in 1949, the daughter of Burnham Gill — who was publisher of The Western Star at the time and who later went on to become provincial archivist — grew up in St. John’s.
A retired professor from York University in Toronto, Gill is now senior scholar in French and translation at that school’s Glendon College.
Through the years, she penned many short stories, most of which harken back to life in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Now she has finally released her first anthology of those short stories, titled after the opening story called “Too Unspeakable for Words.”
Set in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and some in more modern times, Gill’s stories weave through the lives of a set of fictional characters that reflect her experiences of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Inspired by Nobel Prize winning short story author Alice Munro, and her ability to make small town Ontario fascinating, Gill sees her own work as an attempt to do something similar for Newfoundland and Labrador.
While the stories are set in Newfoundland and Labrador, Gill said the humanity captured in them is universal and she hopes they have an appeal beyond her home province. The stories run the gamut from funny to tragic as her characters deal with what she called the vicissitudes of life.
“There are no common themes other than the conundrums, the dilemmas, the messes, the disasters, the surprises, the joys and all the things of life,” she said.
She chose the title because she thought it was catchy and ironic to have a book full of words about things deemed too unspeakable for some.
“Behind all the words is the great unspeakable that we’re trying to get at all the time,” she said.
“Behind the words is everybody’s little thrust and urge and attempt to understand themselves and life and it’s hard to put words on it,” she added.
While Gill has published work in academia before, this is her first published work of fiction. She says she has more stories and hopes to maybe follow up with another anthology in the future.
Published by Breakwater Books, Gill will be in St. John’s next week for the official launch of “Too Unspeakable for Words,” and will do another official release in Toronto next month.