A love story in the Romeo and Juliet tradition, Earth and High Heaven is unusual in that a (relatively) happy ending is implicit in the beginning: the first sentence is ‘One of the questions they were sometimes asked was where and how they had met, for Marc Reiser was a Jew, originally from a small town in northern Ontario, and from 1933 until he went overseas in September 1942, a junior partner in the law firm of Maresch and Aaronson in Montreal, and Erica Drake was a Gentile, one of the Westmount Drakes.’
Just like Mariana by Monica Dickens, Persephone Book No. 2, which first came out in 1940 and therefore leaves a huge question mark over its happy ending (for the war has only just begun), the original readers of this bestselling 1944 novel would have been all too aware that although Earth and High Heaven has a ‘happy’ ending, the war was far from over. But whether the fictional Marc and Erica live ‘happily ever after’ after the war is almost irrelevant. What is important is whether the prejudice and hostility of her father, and of Montreal society in general, will put a stop to their love affair, and whether Canadians would ever change their attitudes.
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