A Novel

In this exhilarating and profound novel, Anna Swan, the real-life 7’6”, 413-pound Nova Scotian Giantess renders her own autobiographical account. Born in 1846 (an 18 pound baby) to a family of crofters, Anna Swan had to sit on the floor as a child so that her head would be level with her siblings at the dinner table. Searching for a home that fits, Anna Swan first goes from Nova Scotia to New York, where P.T. Barnum bills her, at his museum of freaks, as The Biggest Modern Woman of the World. Worn down by P.T. Barnum’s museum fires, she goes from New York to Europe and then to a giant farmhouse in the American mid-west, where she hopes to live out the rest of her life like a Victorian lady. 

Part truth, part legend, The Biggest Modern Woman of the World is a saucy romp through the traditional categories of gender, art, sexuality and nationality. There never has been a story quite like it.

First published in 1983, The Biggest Modern Woman of the World was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for fiction and the Smith’s Best First Novel Award. In the 2001 reissue you will find a new Afterword written by the author.

The Biggest Modern Woman of The World has been written into a feature film screenplay by John Frizzell (Lucky Girl, Life With Billy, Dance Me Outside). Using Anna’s struggle to find a home (and a life) that fits, the screenplay also examines Western culture’s obsession with size and abnormality. Ultimately it is a love story between ‘freaks’ and ‘normals’ whose goals and desires resonate deeply with our own.

Soft Cover | ISBN: 0-88619-410-5
Publisher: Key Porter Books / L&OD

Praise

“Susan Swan creates myth to lend a story to the problems of our time, a time which has lost touch with its own stories and mythical vocabularies. Swan uses classical modes of story-telling but distorts these modes in order to fit the voice of her time.
Her work is a subversion of both the historical and documentary voice which she believes operates under the pretense of being factual and only reflects what we want to see. In subverting these voices, she forces us to look at another reality, a deeper reality which is rooted in something archetypical. Her interest in freaks, in the Gothic, in the apocalyptic, are all ways of lending a narration to contemporary myths.”
– Alberto Manguel, critic and novelist

The Reading Guide for
The Biggest Modern Woman
of The World

Download (pdf)