240 pages | ISBN 978-1-928088-99-8
In this captivating and intricate novel Laisha Rosnau introduces us to three women, each of whom is storied enough to have their own novel and who, together, make for an unforgettable tale. Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven out of their home by the rise in fascism who chose exile in Vernon, BC, Rosnau brings to life Ofelia Caetani, her daughter Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul. Miss Juul is the voice of the novel, a diminutive Danish woman who enters into employment with the Caetani family in Italy before the birth of Sveva, stays with them through twenty-five years of seclusion at their home in Vernon, and past the death of Ofelia. Little Fortress is a story of a shifting world, with the death of its age-old nobility, and of the intricacies of the lives of women caught up in these grand changes. It is a story of friendship, class, betrayal and love.
“Little Fortress is a sublime novel that asks what happens when you rebel against the narrow strictures of your life. When Miss Inger-Marie Jüül rides away from her family’s farm, her story spirals through time, through two world wars, ranging from lonely Danish lighthouses to Cairo, from Italian villas to Okanagan orchards. This is a haunting, sweeping story, both mournful and stitched with a lilt of hope.”
– Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift
“Little Fortress lives and breathes. Based on real people, it builds a deep and convincing world of its own. Rosnau’s portraits of three women, especially her voicing of Miss Jüül, are indelible. An unforgettable novel.”
– Alix Hawley, author of All True Not a Lie in It and My Name Is a Knife
“There’s something wonderfully subversive about Laisha Rosnau’s new novel, Little Fortress. Her women, driven by passion and pain, live on their own terms in a world that would reduce them to eccentric curiosities when they are so much more. Rosnau does a brilliant job of resurrecting and reimagining this piece of Canadian history.”
– Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl
Women's Voices in Historical Fiction: Little Fortress by Laisha Rosnau and A Roll of the Bones by Trudy J. Morgan-Cole (Naomi MacKinnon, Consumed by Ink, 24/02/2020)
"It is not the hows and the whys that make this story special – it is getting to hear these women of the past speak for themselves."
#686 Pleasant Valley Seclusion (Mary-Ann and David Stouck, The Ormsby Review, 11/12/2019)
"Rosnau’s skill as a travel writer comes to the fore in evocative, often painterly descriptions of Cairo and especially of Alexandria with its crowded streets, palm gardens, and horseback riding in the desert where every detail is sharply defined and radiant.... [Rosnau] knows the value of style, of elegantly crafted phrases, and well-turned sentences – and she never falters."
The Minerva Reader is back! (Lisa de Nikolits, The Minerva Reader, 11/01/2019)
"This is a beautiful story of endurance and survival."
Little Fortress (Candace Fertile, Quill & Quire, October 2019)
"Rosnau has done a masterful job of using the lives of historical figures as the building blocks of a stunning work of fiction."
Where in Canada: Little Fortress (Laisha Rosnau, All Lit Up, 26/02/2020)
Laisha discusses Okanagan, the setting of the novel, as a place that offers both freedom and a feeling of confinement.
The Chat with Laisha Rosnau (Trevor Corkum, 49th Shelf, 08/01/2020)
"What would lead a mother, her daughter, and their paid companion into exile, seemingly of their own volition, for a quarter of a century?"
E163 with LAISHA ROSNAU (Jamie Tennant, Get Lit, 02/01/2020)
An interview with Laisha about her novel.
In Conversation with "Little Fortress" Author Laisha Rosnau (Eleanor Hoskins, SAD Magazine, 19/10/2019)
"I thought about the realities of not only immigration but travel, employment and independence for women during that era. Theirs was a privileged sense of cultural displacement, perhaps. They didn't feel they belonged in either the world they immigrated to, or the one they left behind."
"I Would Watch Icebergs Calf and Moan, Float by as If Apparitions" Read an Excerpt from Laisha Rosnau's Little Fortress (Open Book, 04/02/2020)
Laisha shares an excerpt of her novel.
A century before Meghan and Harry, this Italian noble family sought refuge in B.C. — and stayed (CBC Radio, 24/01/2020)
A write-up about Laisha's novel.
Give the gift of books (Dana Gee, Vancouver Sun, 20/12/2019)
"Rosnau's portraits of three women are wonderfully entertaining and insightful."
Our Top Fiction of 2019 (49th Shelf, 17/12/2019)
Chosen as one of the works of fiction that made the literary year by the staff at 49th Shelf.
Journeys to Exile (49th Shelf, 14/11/2019)
Laisha shares a list of other works that informed or are similar to her novel.
#686 Exile on Pleasant Valley Road (Mary-Ann and David Stouck,The Ormsby Review, 11/12/2019)
"We think Alice Munro would have been thrilled with this splendid novel."
Smutty Shout-Outs (Elaine "Lainey" Lui, LaineyGossip, 11/05/2019)
A shout-out and congratulations to Laisha for launching her new novel.
Vernon house's mysterious inhabitants turn out to be great fodder for novelist (Dana Gee, Vancouver Sun, 20/10/2019)
"I was taken to this huge world. I was fascinated by what created the circumstances, the psychological circumstances that would lead these women from living such huge international lives to being essentially trapped by their own volition in a house in Vernon."
'Little Fortress': A Family's Journey from Noble Life in Rome to Seclusion in Vernon (Dorothy Woodend, The Tyee, 19/10/2019)
"The novel sketch[es] out the tangled, occasionally torturous, intersections of three intermingled lives."
Laisha Rosnau explores the ties that bond in Little Fortress (Ben Bengston, north shore news, 18/10/2019)
"My parents lived up the hill from the house in which the three women eventually secluded themselves."
Canadians Joan Thomas, Laisha Rosnau feature among fall’s historical novels (Tara Henley, CBC Books, 03/10/2019)
"Little Fortress takes readers on a sweeping journey from Roman palaces to a small Canadian town, following the true story of the Caetanis family, Italian nobility who fled fascism to live in exile in the Okanagan Valley."
Vernon author’s new historical novel an exploration of the Caetani family (Brendan Shykora, 28/09/2019)
"'What fascinated me as a novelist' says Rosnau, 'was how did these women who led these really large lives […] come to then seclude themselves in a house on Pleasant Valley Road for 25 years?'"
Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Fiction Preview (49th Shelf, 01/07/2019)
Laisha's book makes the list of most anticipated fall titles.
About the Author
Laisha Rosnau is the author of the best-selling novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow (McClelland & Stewart), and four critically acclaimed, award-winning collections of poetry. Her work has been nominated for several awards, including the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Pat Lowther Award, three times for the CBC Poetry Prize, and has won the Blue Heron Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Award. Rosnau's work has been published across Canada, in the US, UK and Australia. She teaches in UBC Okanagan's Creative Writing Program. Rosnau lives in Coldstream, BC, where she and her family are resident caretakers of Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary. Visit her website at laisharosnau.com.