Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts




Creative Writing and Environment

First Advisor

Kenneth L. Cook


Blackthorn City: A novel is a work of fiction that draws on alternate history and fabulist traditions to explore cultural and linguistic divisions and tensions in Montreal and in Quebec between Francophones, Anglophones, and Allophones (speakers of languages other than French and English), in a context of contemporary debates surrounding issues such as nationalism, globalism, and colonialism. Narrated by four narrators and stretching from the early 1960s to 2006, it tells the story of the blackthorn hedge that encircles Montreal in 1970 to protect Montreal’s French speakers from government overreach and police brutality, and of the ultimate destruction of the blackthorn hedge.

In the late 1960s, socialist and anti-colonialist protest movements in Montreal spark riots and terrorism. Michel, a Francophone student at McGill university, is pulled into political activism. His childhood friend Yvette, an amateur witch, is spurred to action after Michel is wrongly jailed for his activism; unintentionally, she works a magic spell that results in the growth of a tall and impenetrable hedge of thorns around the eastern, French-speaking areas of Montreal. The thorn-hedge gives rise to a new self-governing semi-autonomous area, the Free Community of Montreal.

In 1992, Michel’s daughter Celeste comes to Montreal for the first time after her mother is killed by political violence. Yvette takes responsibility for raising her to protect and manage the thorn-hedge. However, Celeste falls in love with Jude, a girl from the other side of the thorn-hedge, and repeatedly sneaks through the thorn-hedge to see her. The threat of political violence leads to their

break-up. Later, a coup d’état shakes Montreal, forcing Celeste to flee to New York, and spurs Jude to involve herself in activism to take back control of the Free Community of Montreal. When Celeste and Jude finally meet again, years later, they find themselves on opposite sides as Jude seeks to protect Montreal from the increasingly conservative Canadian government. Ultimately, they reconcile and decide to end Montreal’s isolation from the rest of the world.

Copyright Owner

Emily Horner



File Format


File Size

364 pages

Available for download on Sunday, June 01, 2025