Author Tags: Fiction

Raised in San Diego as the daughter of an English professor, Janey Bennett is a UCLA graduate and architectural journalist. While dividing her time between Bellingham and Hornby Island, Bennett published her first novel, The Pale Surface of Things (Hopeace Press, 2007), about a young American archaeologist who retreats from an impending marriage to study Minoan culture only to become the central pawn within a family feud in a vendetta-riddled Cretan village. [SEE REVIEW BELOW]

Published in a limited edition of 100 copies, Eeva Dreams of Falling (Summer Story Press 2009) is a fictional examination of early childhood trauma based on the evacuation of 70,000 Finnish children from the homes during World War II, after the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939. Children separated from their parents mainly went to Sweden, but also to Norway and Denmark. Several of the author's Finnish friends were among the evacuees, so she tried to imagine their plight through the experiences of a four-year-old named Eeva.

AWARDS for The Pale Surface of Things

Grand Prize Trophy Second for All Fiction, Next Generation Indie Book Award
Gold Medal Winner, Multicultural Fiction Next Generation Indie Book Award
Gold Medal Winner, Multicultural Fiction USA BookNews BEST BOOK Award
Gold Medal Winner, Multicultural Fiction Indie Excellence Book Award
Gold Medal Winner, Best Use of Environmental Materials, PubWest Book Design Award
Silver Medal Winner, Multicultural Fiction & Non-Fiction, Nautilus Book Awards
Honorable Mention, Multicultural Fiction, Beach Book Festival Awards


The Pale Surface of Things (Victoria, Winnipeg: Hopeace Press, 2007, $25, 978-0-9734007-2-4

Eeva Dreams of Falling (Summer Story 2009)

The Fantastic Seashell of the Mind: The Architecture of Mark Mills (ORO Editions, 2016)

[BCBW 2017] "Fiction"

Pale Surface of Things
Book Review (2008)

All his life, Douglas been going with the flow, not asserting himself, as if good looks can serve as a compass. Hotfooting it from his own wedding vows in eastern Crete, thereby horrifying his bourgeois betrothed and her crass, rich, American father-in-law-to-be, is an unforeseen act of self-preservation.

But where does he go? Where does he hide? Having worked on a summer archaeological dig, Douglas takes refuge with a Greek widow and her young son, a goat shepherd, hoping to start his life afresh. But when our injured hero-on-the-run gets robbed a second time—by the thief who shot him the first time—he astonishes himself and the boy by stabbing and apparently killing their assailant.

So now the formerly hapless Douglas is on the lam from the police as well as an irate father-in-law. Penniless, forced to steal, he plunges headlong into village intrigues that have arisen from the brutal Nazi occupation of Greece more than fifty years ago.

That’s just the beginning of Janey Bennett’s fascinating first novel, The Pale Surface of Things (Hopeace Press $22). The young, would-be archaeological is the hook for only half of the story. There’s another, far more important central character, Father Dimitrios, wise beyond his years, viewed as radically modern by the locals, who has also eschewed romance.

The American-educated but Crete-born Orthodox priest who uses email and rides an antique Vespa motorscooter has returned to vendetta-riddled Crete to unravel a dark family secret. The paths of the two seekers finally cross about halfway through the novel, by which time Janey Bennett has easily succeeded in making her reader want to get a ticket to fly to Heraklion from Athens as soon as possible.

Incorporating points of view from a myriad of supporting characters, Bennett has a Balzac-ian zeal for bringing the society of Crete itself into the foreground of her story. We also get drawn further into the history of the Cretan underground resistance during World War II.

“Some are born Greek, some achieve Greekness, some have Greekness thrust upon them,” she says. “I was lucky. I stayed in Chania for a month, driving back and forth across Lefka Ori, tracking down villages and World War II sites, looking for locations and geographical links.

“I was planning to go back several times a year while I wrote Pale Surface and instead, after that trip I nearly died from a parasite I picked up in Asia, so I bought all these books and researched by reading.

“My Cretan friends think I may have been more accurate as a result of not being there, of not interacting with them. They are amazed that I know more than they do about traditions on the island and their grandmothers verify my information.”

Ultimately, the confluence of village traditions, Greek law and the Orthodox church enable Douglas to learn necessary lessons of shame, terror, gratitude, forgiveness, and ultimately, accountability.

The title The Pale Surface of Things refers to Father Dimitrios, who, with help from Douglas, painstakingly restores religious frescoes that were covered up during the war. It’s a sophisticated, movie-like novel, slightly longer than it needs to be, that persuasively shows how personal honour can be more important than sex, social striving or conformity.

Published from Victoria, with an overly-modest book jacket, The Pale Surface of Things has received seven book industry awards, including a gold medal for multicultural fiction from USA Book News Awards, as well as Indie Excellence Awards and Indie Next Generation Awards. In Canada, Pale Surface has gained a citation for Best Use of Environmental Materials (from PubWest), shared with Friesens Printers of Manitoba, who used 100% post-consumer recycled paper with vegetable inks.

Raised in San Diego as the daughter of an English professor, Janey Bennett is a UCLA graduate and architectural journalist who lives on Hornby Island and in Bellingham.


[Alan Twigg / BC BookWorld]

Best Use of Environmental Materials
Press Release (2008)

Publishers Association of the West announces Hopeace Press the Gold Medal winner of the PubWest's Book Design Awards in the category: Best Use of Environmental Materials. The winning book The Pale Surface of Things, a novel by Janey Bennett, used Friesens Printing and opted for 100% post-consumer recycled paper and vegetable inks. Hopeace Press is owned by Keith Moen and is headquartered in Winnipeg, MB.

According to an eco-audit from Friesens, the initial 4,000 print run of The Pale Surface of Things on 100% pcr paper resulted in a savings of 53 full-grown trees, 19,000 gallons of water, 37,000,000 BTUs of energy, 2,473 pounds of solid waste, and 4,640 pounds of greenhouse gases. Friesens uses only water-based, renewable and recyclable adhesives.

The Pale Surface of Things, set on the Greek island of Crete, is both a fast-paced adventure and a serious examination of the differences in values between a culturally root-less young American and a deeply traditional Cretan village. Janey Bennett's novel has also received USA BookNews Best Book Award in Multicultural Fiction, and is a finalist in the Nautilus Book Awards. It is the second novel published by Hopeace Press. The Pale Surface of Things retails for $21.95 in US and Canada and is available from Ingram Distribution.

Friesens was Canada’s first book manufacturer to be FSC-Certified, and has provided eco-audits to book publishers since 2004. Founded in 1907, Friesens remains North America’s premiere book manufacturer, annually winning numerous awards, including the American National Association of Printing Leadership (NAPL) Management Plus Hall of Fame Award.