Duke, Sara Tilley’s second novel, is inspired by the letters and diaries of her great-grandfather, William Marmaduke Tilly, who left Newfoundland in 1905 to try to earn enough money to get his father’s business out of debt. Duke works his way across the United States, up to Vancouver, along the Yukon River and finally to Alaska, where he spends eight years in the interior toiling as a logger. When Duke returns home, his father turns inexplicably cold, locking Duke and his wife and newborn child out of the house in the dead of winter and banishing him from the community. A story of family obligation, repression and passion, ill health and ill luck, Duke builds on the real Duke Tilly’s ways of expressing himself to uncover a surprisingly contemporary fictional voice with large doses of humour, beauty and keen observation.
About the Author
Sara Tilley is a writer, theatre artist, and clown, who lives and works in her home town of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her artistic work bridges writing, theatre, and Pochinko Clown Through Mask technique, with each discipline informing and inspiring the others. Her novel, Duke, found its inspiration through mask work. After graduating with a BFA in Acting from York University, Sara founded a feminist theatre company, She Said Yes!, and received the Rhonda Payne Theatre Award, which acknowledges the contribution of a woman working in theatre. Skin Room, her first novel, won both the Newfoundland and Labrador Percy Janes First Novel Award and the inaugural Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers. Sara won the Lawrence Jackson Writer’s Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council in 2011.
Set between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, Duke is a captivating story about a troubled man who tries to get rich quick in Alaska but who encounters years of difficult people and events, bad luck and his own demons before he returns to his original home in Newfoundland (where more turmoil awaits). The story is told through diary notes and goes backward and forwards in time. This structure helps to build tension as the reader must remember who knew what at which point. A thoughtful, worrisome book.