The Queen of Unforgetting
Globe & Mail
At 13, Mel Montrose is plucked from a chilly lake by a large, indifferent fisherman named Tiny. This scene recurs
in variations throughout, as Mel’s life is repeatedly saved by others unwilling to let her drown.
The subject of Mel’s dissertation is E.J. Pratt’s ambitious poem Brébeuf and His Brethren. In order to do some
field research on her thesis topic, Mel works as a tour guide at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons. While most
PhDs rearrange their cutlery drawer, drink or clean their refrigerators for distraction, Mel writes a fictional
account of Brébeuf’s last days prior to his murder and torture, just for fun.
The anti-heroine reconnects with her parents, who own and run the only Jewish bakery in Midland, Ont. She
continues to spurn her ex, Hugh, who travels up weekly from Toronto to try to blackmail her for her love and
devotion. Mel’s deceptions and evasions eventually cause Hugh to take decisive and violent action.
Maultash Warsh tackles the loaded themes of racism, anti-Semitism, saints and sinners, and religious and
personal martyrdom in her fourth novel. The first half of the novel is quite enjoyable and quirky: There are many
lively, beautifully written and well-imagined scenes, such as Brébeuf’s encounters with the foul-mouthed,
begrudging Huron tribe and Mel’s touching relationship with her landlady’s neglected child, Dot. Such
exchanges reveal a complex Mel-cum-Malka – the drowning Queen who discovers how easy it is to forget and
how difficult it is to forgive herself.
The Canadian Jewish News
Sylvia Maultash Warsh, the author of three mystery novels, now deftly turns her pen to a literary novel about a
student in Toronto researching her thesis. Although The Queen of Unforgetting is not a whodunit as her previous
acclaimed works are — she has won an Edgar Allen Poe Award — in a way, The Queen of Unforgetting is still a
mystery novel, exploring secrets that lie buried in the murky waters of the protaganist’s past. Mel decides to
spend the summer working at the reconstructed fort at Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons in order to research the
life of the Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf. But Mel brings a lot more baggage with her than her typewriter and
scholarly notes. The fort is located close to her hometown of Midland, Ont., where her parents, whom she’s been
estranged from, still live. Fellow student Hugh, who's obsessed with her, follows her, threatening to
reveal information about her that could destroy her academic career. Both her parents have long-repressed
secrets and guilt from World War II buried in their past. Mel's fictional account of the Black Robes' hardships and
eventual martyrdom deep in Huron territory is described in full grisly detail and is an interesting side plot. The
massacre of the Hurons at the hands of the Iroquois parallels the destruction of the Jews in Warsaw. As a
literary novel about an English grad student, this book is full of obvious literary devices including symbolism,
foreshadowing, mixed metaphors, water imagery and pathetic fallacy. An English teacher’s wet dream. The
Queen of Unforgetting is a well-told story that reveals its secrets slowly, with everything coming to a head in a
fast-paced climactic, bloody and, of course, highly symbolic ending.
The Owen Sound Sun Times
Toronto’s Cormorant Press has been turning out noted novels for several decades. It’s one of those publishers I
can rely upon for fine Canadian fiction, novels like Sylvia Maultash Warsh’s The Queen of Unforgetting.
Mel Montrose is a graduate student at the University of Toronto when she attempts to enlist the great literary
critic Northrup Frye as her thesis advisor. Her subject is E. J. Pratt’s epic poem, Brébeuf and His Brethern. Pratt
just happened to be Frye’s mentor and when the great man signs Mel’s advisor’s sheet, she can only exude,
“Northrop Frye/What a guy!”
Then it’s off to the newly reconstructed historical site at Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons at Midland where Mel,
a historical interpreter, dives into the legend and lore of the Jesuit Martyrs. But Mel is being stalked by Hugh,
another graduate student with whom she conspired to trade sexual favours for a paper on William Blake. When
Hugh threatens to tell all, Mel realizes that somehow she must face her wrong doings.
Like Brian Moore’s The Black Robe, The Queen of Unforgetting is steeped in the history of Huronia. “A year
after Lalemant’s announcement,” Warsh writes, “a house stands, not quite French, not quite Huron. It is in a
clearing where the lake flows into the little river. To the unobservant eye, it is an Indian longhouse, but inside,
one steps into France.”
The novel is both a mystery and a history. As the story develops, Mel finds an intersection between the
sufferings of Brébeuf and her parent’s experiences during the Second World War. Mel, who learns the meaning
of sacrifice and truth, also finds love. It’s a great summertime read that can be followed with a visit to Sainte-
Marie, only a few hours from Owen Sound.
“ Told with a passionate blend of innocence, sexual persuasion, guilt, desolation and peace
…A must-read on my 2010 list.”
— The Hamilton Spectator
"Toronto writer Sylvia Maultash Warsh's move into literary fiction with The Queen of Unforgetting,
after three rich and compelling whodunits ... is a gain for anyone who appreciates
good writing of any kind."
— The Town Crier
Season of Iron
SEASON OF IRON is one of the most compelling and well-written books I have come across in years. The writer,
Sylvia Maultash Warsh, does a masterful job in describing two very diverse time periods, 1979 Toronto and
1930s Berlin. She manages to make both eras and its people come alive to interest and touch the readers.
It's a rare fiction book that can tell the story of the Holocaust while keeping respectful of the horrors that
happened. This book manages to use this dreadful time and combine it with a murder mystery to make an
outstanding example of fine writing.
This is the third in the Rebecca Temple series and the first I've read. Because it was written so well, I had no
idea this book was part of a murder mystery series until I was almost finished, it struck me as an example of solid
literary fiction, it is so well written.
I am determined to read the other books of this series and to definitely read any more books written by this
Reviewed by Sharon Katz
Season of Iron is a compelling mystery novel about the enduring legacy of Holocaust pain. Two parallel stories,
decades apart, converge at the book's climax like the lines of a road that meet and seem to vanish at the horizon
in a painting.
But the pain doesn't disappear into the sunset. It festers into a guilt-driven rage that results in murder.
Season of Iron is not a light entertaining read. Warsh's descriptive skill evokes such crushing images that,
combined with the powerful story line, I found the intensity almost overwhelming.
Dr. Rebecca Temple becomes involved with the life and murder of a schizophrenic homeless woman. Her
investigations are complicated by the birth of her sister's fourth baby.
The young mother finds life completely swamped by the needs of yet another child. Temple discovers the
desolate reality of where there is birth, there is not always joy and where there is death, there can be renewal.
In alternating chapters, the story follows a Jewish family's descent into the hell of the Nazi regime. You know
what's going to happen to them as you follow them from hope to exile to the Final Solution, but the inevitable
result and the disturbing climax make you wish you could reach into the pages and shake out something better.
The climax is satisfying but sad.
The complications will keep you reading as the tightly woven tales of two women converge. Surprises are in
store for the reader as well as the well drawn characters. Will Rebecca identify the killer and his motive? How
did she get involved? These are two of the many questions you'll want answered.
This is a book I am pleased to highly recommend to any reader, not just mystery fans. You will have to know
how it ends. Talented author Sylvia Maultash Warsh has written a tale you may want to read more than once.
An old history given new life and meaning serves as the backdrop for Frieda's tale and you'll live every
frightening moment, making this a history lesson you won't soon forget. Enjoy. I sure did.
Anne K. Edwards
“Masterful novel links Toronto and Berlin”
As events unfold in 1979 Toronto, alternate chapters narrate the story of the Eisenbaums, Jewish Berliners who
watch disbelievingly as the Nazis systematically divest them of their rights. Daughter Frederika, bright and
driven, manages to qualify as a physician only to lose her licence.
Toronto author Sylvia Maultash Warsh, the child of Holocaust survivors, has produced a sensitive and masterful
mystery with this latest installment in the Rebecca Temple series. By writing the Eisenbaum chapters in the
present tense, Maultash Warsh gives the family's persecution a moving immediacy, and the link between the
Toronto and Berlin plots is exacting and credible.
Find Me Again
Books in Canada
Despite Find Me Again’s cover notes I was unprepared for the engrossing journey over two centuries on which I
was to accompany the author. This is Warsh’s second novel, a sequel to the well regarded To Die in Spring, and
once again its central character is Dr. Rebecca Temple.
Rebecca’s husband has been dead eleven months, too short a time for her to reconcile herself to this tragedy
and the opening chapters are suitably poignant and melancholy. Her relationship with Sarah, her Mother-in-
Law, is somehow stilted and mostly at arms length emotionally. Sarah has justification for her reluctance to
commit to a warmer relationship; her experience as a Holocaust survivor in occupied Poland makes her a victim
of dark and distressing nightmares. The horrors of the Holocaust are a necessary and integral ingredient of this
tale and this aspect is handled with great sensitivity by Warsh.
We are diverted from Rebecca’s sadness with the arrival of Halina, an old friend of Sarah’s, who has come from
Communist Poland to Toronto in the hope of finding a cure for her daughter Natalka’s serious illness. Through
these visitors we are introduced to Count Michael Oginski, a larger than life charmer, described with affection by
Warsh and John Baron, another Polish émigré, who is the martinet owner of the mining company that the Count
now works for in Toronto. The Count tells Rebecca with great enthusiasm of the historical novel that he is
writing, which, he claims, will revise current understanding of history and confirm his royal ancestry. A
surprising development soon follows: There is a murder and we are introduced to two mysteries-one set in the
late 1970s, the other in the mid 1740s. While Rebecca strives to identify a murderer in Toronto, believing that the
Count’s manuscript contains the answer, Warsh transports us through history. We become witnesses to the
often-incestuous affairs and political intrigues of the royal courts of Poland, Russia, Saxony and Prussia.
Rebecca, while searching for answers in the Count’s novel, becomes transfixed by the characters and their
machinations; there’s plenty of romance, political diplomacy, and at times, plain jostling for better status at court.
Warsh knits the two mysteries together seamlessly, writing convincingly of Europe in the 1740s, ably capturing
the nuances of the language of those times. She handles the transition from one story to the other deftly until Dr.
Temple, through her sheer determination and courage, presents us with satisfying and believable solutions to
The author, while raised in Toronto, was born in Germany, a child of Holocaust survivors, and has an obvious
empathy for those who lived through those events; she has successfully put that understanding to use in this
(Books in Canada)
To Die In Spring
After the recent death of her artist husband, it's not all raisins and almonds in the relocated and refurbished
consulting room of Dr. Rebecca Temple in downtown Toronto. There was nothing in Rebecca's past to prepare
her for the headlong lethal drama that walked innocently into her waiting room in the guise of harmless old
Goldie Kochinsky. From Goldie, Dr. Temple learned, to her pain, that even paranoids have enemies. With the
unrelenting pace of a jack-hammer, the suspense and horror combine to keep the pressure on full, while
Argentine heavies and a relentless murderer stop at nothing in their attempts to keep the lid on a whole
Pandora's box of secrets going back to the death camps of Poland in the Second World War. This is the sort of
novel that sells the sequel as you turn the pages of the present most accomplished introduction.
Author of the "Benny Cooperman" mysteries
"...To Die in Spring is Torontonian Sylvia Warsh's first published mystery and it's a good deal better than the
work of many veterans. It's also set up as a kickoff to a promising series featuring Dr. Rebecca Temple, a young
widow recovering from the early death of her beloved artist husband.
...The novel is set in 1979, which puts it in temporal reach of the Second World War as well as the horrors of
Argentina, where many Nazis and some surviving Jews fled after the war. Warsh handles fairly deftly the now-
historical issues, putting them into the terms and mouths of characters who display the full range of greed and
obsession required to play out her plot.
...Warsh, who teaches creative writing to seniors in Toronto, does a fine job of unwrapping mysterious identities
until both sins and crimes lie satisfactorily revealed."
The London Free Press
"...Warsh writes sensitively about the persecution of the Jews, and she shows convincingly how the actions of
the past are not discrete-they have monumental effects on the present and future. And Warsh is even-handed in
her treatment of human nature by making villains whose evil is not based in religion, but in greed.
...Somehow Warsh manages to pull off the combination of oppressed and oppressors, while adding in losses of
love and life. In tying the threads of the mystery together, in the conclusion Warsh gives her characters and her
readers hope that the positive side of human beings will prevail."
The Edmonton Journal
"It's cause for celebration when another Canadian mystery writer has confidence enough to set a novel in a
Canadian city instead of somewhere real or fictional in the USA. Especially when the latest American trend has
been to use Britain as a setting and a nobleman, a la Peter Wimsey, as detective. When novels like Sylvia
Maultash Warsh's To Die in Spring appear, I am delighted to be on my home turf in a believable world."
Susan Evans Shaw