Author Kathleen Winter talks about linking history to the present

This year’s Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series featured author Kathleen Winter, who visited York University on Oct. 2 to talk about her new novel Lost in September. York University Teaching Assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Lost in September started as a book about General James Wolfe. “The writing of a book is always an exploration for me,” Kathleen Winter told the audience during her presentation for the Canadian Writers in Person series. “I knew I wouldn’t write a historical book … I had to find a way to write about how a soldier yesterday is the same as a soldier today.”

Winter said she read General James Wolfe’s letters from the time he became a child soldier at 13 to two weeks before his death at 32. His letters showed that he was a different kind of person from the person we thought we knew.

From his letters, she gathered that Wolfe experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that modern soldiers experience. So, Lost in September became an exploration of the effects of war on the individual. The protagonist, Jimmy Blanchard, is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, who might be a reincarnation of Wolfe. His emotions and his relationship with his mother parallel, in some ways, Wolfe’s; he too is thrown at a young age into the midst of war, and ends up affected by its horrors.

“I wanted James Wolfe to see what became of the new world for which he sacrificed not only his life, but a whole side of him (his artistic side),” the writer said.

In this book, James Wolfe returns to Quebec and tries to recover the 11 days of his leave that he lost. This is an attempt at recovering his lost chance of developing his interest in art and dance, of developing a self that is not defined by war.

This novel involved a lot of research on General Wolfe’s life, and the lives of present-day war veterans. By creating a link between Wolfe’s and Blanchard’s PTSD, Winter shows us the enduring ramifications of war on soldiers, their loved ones and their communities.

This is a fictionalized but infinitely touching account of Wolfe’s life. “All history is fiction, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true,” the writer said.

The Globe and Mail review points out this novel’s ability to engage its readers with its emotional truth: “Lost in September coalesces into a touching portrait of a broken man, as well as a considerable addition to the literature of war, of trauma and recovery. It’s energized by a deep compassion for our drive to heal and remember, even in the shadow of unimaginable bloodshed: an afterworld where time ceases to make sense, and regrets can last a lifetime – and some, perhaps, might even last forever.”

Eden Robinson will be coming to the Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series on Oct. 23 to talk about her novel Son of a Trickster.

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at or Professor Gail Vanstone at All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele Campus.