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Earth and High Heaven

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Earth and High Heaven
First US edition
AuthorGwethalyn Graham
PublisherJonathan Cape (UK)
Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada)
J. B. Lippincott (US)
Publication date
Publication placeCanada
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages228 pp (first edition, hardcover)

Earth and High Heaven was a 1944 novel by Gwethalyn Graham. It was the first Canadian novel to reach number one on The New York Times bestseller list[1] and stayed on the list for 37 weeks,[2] selling 125 000 copies in the United States[3] that year.

Set in Montreal, Quebec during World War II, the novel portrays a romance between Erica Drake, a young woman from a wealthy Protestant family in Westmount, and Marc Reiser, a Jewish lawyer and soldier from Northern Ontario. The young lovers are forced to confront and overcome the anti-Semitism of their society in their quest to form a lasting relationship.

Literary significance & criticism


Originally published by Jonathan Cape and Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada),[4] the most recent edition of the novel was published by Toronto's Cormorant Books in 2004.

Awards and nominations


Earth and High Heaven won the 1944 Governor General's Award for fiction,[5] and the 1945 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. It was also the ninth bestselling book of 1945 in the United States.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations


Producer Samuel Goldwyn bought the movie rights to Earth and High Heaven for $100 000, intending for Katharine Hepburn to play Erica Drake. He initially hired Ring Lardner Jr. to adapt the screenplay.

Goldwyn was, however, dissatisfied with the results, telling Lardner that he "betrayed [him] by writing too much like a Jew.".[6] Goldwyn subsequently hired a succession of other writers to develop the script, and remained dissatisfied with the final product.

After Elia Kazan released the similarly themed Gentleman's Agreement in 1947, Goldwyn abandoned Earth and High Heaven rather than risk having it labeled by critics as a copy of Kazan's film.


  1. ^ "Gwethalyn Graham: Two fiction awards won by Montrealer". The Globe and Mail, November 26, 1965.
  2. ^ "AECB – Title Detail – Earth and High Heaven". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  3. ^ "The Year in Books". Time. 1944-12-18. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  4. ^ Cumulative List of Winners of the Governor General's Literary Awards[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Literary Prizes Are Announced". North Bay Nugget, April 2, 1945.
  6. ^ McGilligan, Patrick (1997). Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 60s. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-520-20426-3.