73, says her attention spans lasts about 10 years. She spent a decade as an academic, specializing in Dickens before becoming a CBC Radio producer for another decade, producing documentaries. After that, she was the Globe and Mail’s arts and books editor. Ashenburg has written five books including Going to Town, The Mourner’ s Dance: What We Do When People Die and The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, a history of personal hygiene.
Set in Sweden, Sofie & Cecilia is Ashenburg’s first novel and was chosen as Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction (making her the oldest debut author in their line-up). The novel is a story about a lifelong women’s friendship and is loosely based on the lives of artists Cal Larsson and Anders Zorn and their wives, the namesakes of the title, who were artists in their own right. “The third and final part of the novel is called ‘Red,’” explains the author. “That’s because I wanted to celebrate the way my two heroines blossom in old age. Red stands for passion in work and love, the fulfilment of a slowgrowing intimate friendship and glorious sunsets – in their last years, Sofie and Cecilia have them all.” Adds Ashenburg, “And I’m hoping for at least 10 years in my newest career as a novelist.”