An ‘Emotionally Loud’ Debut

Elise Moser’s Because I have Loved and Hidden It has been called an “ambitious and artfully woven novel” (National Post) and been noted for its “abundant carnal heat” (Globe and Mail). Set in Montreal, the novel is a unique story of self-discovery. Adam Kelly spoke with Moser to find out more.

Elise Moser knows about feelings. Her novel Because I have Loved and Hidden It (Cormorant) is an in-depth look at the complex emotional passages of a love affair. Seldom is an author as personal or observant when unearthing the roots of the heart, but Elise’s main character Julia is nothing if not open-hearted.

“My way in is through the emotional life of the character,” Elise says, as we sip coffee on a terrace in downtown Montreal. “Julia’s sensory and physical experiences are drawn from my own, and many of the emotional experiences are things I have felt.”

Combining an adoption mystery with the story of Julia’s affairs with a married man and his wife, Elise has composed a novel of unusual insight into familial and sexual love. While seeking out a long-lost sister, Julia meets her lover Nicholas at the Canadian Centre for Architecture—only a few minutes from where Moser and I are having coffee. After Nicholas goes missing in Morocco, Julia befriends his wife, Deepa. Without revealing her indiscretion, Julia shares with Deepa more than just her sadness.

Although Julia is discreet, Moser herself is not shy about opening up the dark places of the heart. “I grew up in a really dysfunctional family and have always wanted to understand why people behave so badly. I wanted to know why it’s so hard to love and be good to one another. This book was my way of thinking it through.”

Elise’s novel is unabashedly entrenched in Montreal streets and sights, including the Canadian Centre for Architecuture, Rue St. Denis and Parc Jeanne-Mance. She is a strong proponent for geographic specificity in writing. “It’s fun to read about places you’ve been to, “she says. “You recognize yourself when you read something that you’ve experienced, and it validates those experiences. I wanted the book to reflect a true picture of the world I know—the people of roughly my generation living in my city.”

If there is one weakness in Because I Have Loved it is perhaps the sub-plot dealing with an unknown, adopted sister. The momentum of Julia’s love story is sufficient to hold the reader’s attention and an “identity mystery” to further the suspense isn’t really needed. Notwithstanding, Because I Have Loved is a profound look at love and its consequences, written by an author of remarkable talent and courage.

“Peoples’ ability to love one another can get so deformed,” says Elise. “Through a little introspection and luck you can heal some of that deformation.”

Often the best writing is evocative through its simplicity. As we finish our coffee, Elise reacts simply and evocatively to the description of her book as “pretty quiet, but emotionally loud.”

“Yeah, it is!”