Be Good, Sweet Maid
The Trials of Dorothy Joudrie
Paper 280 pp.
Online discount: 25%
Shortlisted for the 2000 Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction (Alberta Book Awards)
Shortlisted for the Henry Kreisel Award for Best First Book (Alberta Book Awards)
January 21, 1995: Dorothy Joudrie is arrested for attempting to murder her estranged husband. Soon after, Audrey Andrews begins to write her book. Audrey and Dorothy had known each other as children, but the identification of Andrews with Joudrie goes beyond merely the accident of a childhood acquaintance. It has to do with being subjected to the same societal constraints placed on girls and women during the years immediately following World War II, the years in which they had prepared for their adult lives. Expectations, placidly accepted then, are now seen as unrealistic and unreasonable. Did these expectations have some part in causing the tragedy in Dorothy Joudrie’s life?
When Andrews attempted to understand why Dorothy Joudrie had tried to kill her husband, and to write Joudrie’s story, she began to examine her own life, her own expectations — those she had of herself and those others had of her. She also realized that telling the story of anyone is an intricate and often ephemeral pursuit. Any story she wrote could only be her version of Joudrie’s experience. Nevertheless, it was important to be as honest as she could about her interpretation of that life. She determined to show carefully and accurately the damage that had been done to one woman — damage that is still being done to many others — through prejudice, attitudes, traditions and the institutions that are still the foundation of our society, and of our lives, everyday.
The result is a fascinating account of events leading up to the trial, the trial itself and the effect of Joudrie’s trial on the life of Audrey Andrews.
Audrey Andrews, after teaching for several years in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, is currently a freelance writer. Her original article about Dorothy Joudrie was published in NeWest Review, and her book reviews have appeared in Arctic: Journal of the Arctic Institute of North America, Canadian Ethnic Studies and the Calgary Herald.
“Intimate and telling. More than historical non-fiction, Andrews’ account of the much-publicized Joudrie case is unflinching in its honesty, its criticism, and its understanding. It leaves little doubt that female stereotypes long believed dead are, in fact, alive and well in the conservative West. It is also a glimpse into the psychological dynamic of abusive relationships. The author’s admitted lack of objectivity gives the book a new dimension, as a sounding board for her to explore the lives of various generations of women.”