In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, meet Capi Blanchet. Capi lived most of her life in North Saanich on Vancouver Island, and her story is part of the “Legendary Women” chapter in Sensational Victoria.
Capi Blanchet was found dead in 1961, slumped over her typewriter while writing a sequel to The Curve of Time. For a writer, that’s not a bad way to go. The tragedy in Capi’s case is that she died without ever having an inkling of the success her book would enjoy. There was no way for her to know that a half century into the future, her book would be republished in a 50th-anniversary edition and become a national best-seller.
“Six months was all Capi had to enjoy and share her creation,” wrote her publisher and friend, Gray Campbell. “She never knew the far-reaching importance her work would later come to enjoy.”
Campbell has said that The Curve of Time was the inspiration behind Gray’s Publishing and likely responsible for dozens if not hundreds of books that would not otherwise have been published.
Born in Montreal, Muriel Liffiton married Geoffrey Blanchet, a banker when she was 18. In 1922 the family drove out west and bought Clovelly, a house designed by Samuel Maclure near the Swartz Bay Ferry. Soon after moving in, the Blanchets bought a boat called the Caprice. Five years later Geoffrey took the boat out and never returned, leaving Capi to wonder if it was accident or suicide.
“Destiny rarely follows the pattern we would choose for it and the legacy of death often shapes our lives in ways we could not imagine,” she writes in the Curve of Time.
Widowed at 33, and the sole support for five kids aged between two and 14, in an economy teetering on the brink of the Depression, the resourceful Capi survived by renting out her house for the summers, packing up the kids and Irish Setter, and sailing around British Columbia’s rugged coastline. The rent supplemented her income, and the trips provided the basis for her book.
In 1949, Capi and her son David built a small house on the cliff of their property.
The current owner bought the property in the early 1990s and gave me a tour of her house several years ago. It’s a beautiful place with an amazing view, but what I loved is that while the house has been remodeled and enlarged over the years, they have built the house around Capi’s living-room and two bedrooms. The cedar that she and David hand-hewn to make the cathedral ceiling and the walls, as well as the original rock fireplace, remain unaltered.
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