Méira Cook

Book Cover

Nightwatching explores the relationship between a lonely young girl and her nanny, a woman who has worked for the Blackburn family for twelve years. Ruthie Blackburn is a motherless girl, tough and resilient, precocious, awkward and somewhat turbulent. She is eleven years-old and has grown up in a small gold-mining city in the Orange Free State (the equivalent of the Canadian prairies) named Welkom. Her father is kindly but aloof and Ruthie spends much of her time with the family maid, Miriam Tsomela.

There, in the kitchen of the house on Unicor Street, Miriam and Ruthie quarrel and play cards, listen to their radio serials and navigate their loving, cantankerous relationship. The novel's central conflict occurs when Ruthie's father's girlfriend visits for the weekend. Unexpectedly, she brings her brother with her and the two guests—who come from the capital city of Bloemfontein— provide a beguiling yet unsettling glimpse of big city life beyond the small town values and constraints of Welkom. Confronted, at such close proximity, with adult desire, Ruthie is both intrigued and revolted but the weekend has its own freight of mischance and disaster to unload.

Praise for Méira Cook's Nightwatching:

Winner, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction (2015/2016)

“The really good books are the ones that stay with you. Long after reading Nightwatching, I find it still vivid in my memory. Méira Cook has created three wonderfully memorable characters—an adolescent white girl, a middle-aged black woman, and a wayward eight year old boy—bound together by love, circumstance, and place, then rendered apart by the tragedy that was South Africa during the Apartheid era. An intimate and emotionally intense book that resonates far beyond its particular time and place.” —Lewis DeSoto, author of The Restoration Artist and A Blade of Grass

Nightwatching is an impressive achievement for its prolonged atmosphere of unease, its sustained tension.” —Winnipeg Free Press

Praise for Méira Cook's The House On Sugarbush Road:

Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year (2013)

"Cook has written a powerful, lyrical novel that ends quietly but with profound impact." —Quill & Quire, starred review

"I finished The House on Sugarbush Road stunned at the sheer life on its pages. I felt I had seen South Africa in a way that will always shape my thinking about it. The beauty of the language, the author's eye for moving and incongruous detail, her understanding of the searing realities of post—Apartheid South Africa—all are extraordinary. What Méira Cook especially grasps and explores with great delicacy are the ties that bind her characters together: a shared past, but also greed, need, and something approaching love." —Joan Thomas, author of Curiosity

Praise for Méira Cook's The Blood Girls:

"The South African-Canadian author writes gorgeous prose . . . this is a promising debut by a writer passionately devoted to the beauty of the written word." —Publishers Weekly

Category/Genre: Fiction—Literary
Length: 198 pages (ms)
Setting: South Africa
Period: Mid-1970s
Publication Date: Spring 2015

English Canada rights, HarperCollins Canada

For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.

Author Name

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, MÉIRA COOK immigrated to Canada in 1991 at the age of 26. An accomplished poet and author, Nightwatching is her third novel. Méira lived many years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has returned to Winnipeg after residing in British Columbia.