A whimsical and misanthropic imagining of Emily Dickinson's life Paper Houses is a novelized account of Emily Dickinson's life, focusing on her childhood, the homes she lived in throughout her life, her family relationships, and her gradual reclusiveness, as she becomes consumed by getting words down on paper, and writing becomes an end in itself. Dickinson's childhood seems idyllic, and the headstrong Emily is both serious and fanciful. As she presses flowers between the pages of heavy books to preserve them, she reflects that books drink the water of flowers. When she is given a kaleidoscope for Christmas, she sees it as a device for taking the world as it is and making it unrecognizable, saying to her mother in response to the gift, "But I already have so many books..." The account of her adult life focuses on her writing and gardening, her gradual withdrawal from society, her relationships with family members and her limited contact with people from the outside world. She is disappointed with flesh and blood, and prefers letters, reflecting that you can't have books and a life, after seeing her classmates abandon their dreams to take their place in society. She remains close to her sister, but upon returning to her childhood home Homestead, after a 25-year absence, she reflects that of all the members of her family, she likes the house the best.
Author Dominique Fortier is an editor and translator living in Outremont, Quebec. Her first novel, On the Proper Use of Stars (2008), was nominated for a Governor General's Award, and Au péril de la mer won the Governor General's Award for French fiction, and Island of Books was published by Coach House in 2016. She is the author of six books.