The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country, written by Charlotte Gray, has won the 2014 Toronto Book Award. The multi-award winning biographer and historian has created a captivating narrative in her story about a high society crime that scandalized Toronto – the true story on Carrie Davis, the maid who shot a Massey.
It happened in 1915, when a member of a wealthy Canadian family was shot and killed at his home in Toronto. Carrie Davis, who was the family’s 18-year-old British immigrant maid, confessed to the murder. However, a dramatic trial began to unfold when lawyer, Hartley Dewart, QC, took on her case. The story is set with the Great War in Europe as a backdrop.
When asked about the award Gray said, “I just feel it’s wonderful the city has this award but also that the judges felt the history of the city was as important as its social network.”
Gray, who lives in Ottawa adds, “I met the other four nominees and read their books. Each one of them represented a different aspect of the city — this vibrant, 21st-century, buzzing North American city — and generally Canadians don’t embrace history.”
“I actually think . . . there is a hunger to know what it was like back then (in 1915) and you can only really tell that story through people who weren’t necessarily terribly important in their own day. It’s actually the story of the voiceless in history that I think really captivated people. And it certainly captivated me when I was writing it.”
Her book was one of 79 submitted for the award. Diane Spivik, chair of the jury, said that “the story was very compelling and her writing was very compelling. She gave us so much detail into a Toronto that was just on the cusp of change. You were really transported to 1915 and what it might have been like to be living there.”
Other finalists include How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement (Random House Canada); Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis for their social science, agriculture and food book The Stop: Anthony De Sa for his novel Kicking The Sky (Doubleday Canada); Shyam Selvadurai for his novel The Hungry Ghosts (Doubleday Canada) and Carrianne K. Y. Leung for her novel The Wondrous Woo (Inanna Publications);
As winning author, Gray won $10,000. She is also known for her bestseller, Gold Diggers, which is a Discovery Television mini-series.