Sometime in  I received a phone call from Winnipeg. The caller was a woman by the name of Patricia Blondal. The message was clear: “I sent a manuscript to your company almost a month ago and I have heard nothing. I’m arriving in Toronto tomorrow morning and if you don’t want to publish it and have not made a decision by then, I’ll withdraw it and submit to Macmillan …” It was after-hours and I decided to look around and see if I could find the manuscript. I finally located it in a pile of [mainly] unread material. At around eight o’clock my wife called and asked why I wasn’t home for dinner. “I’m really sorry, dear,” I apologized, “but I’m reading a manuscript. I have to finish it, and I won’t be home for dinner.” I arrived home about three in the morning. I found Patricia Blondal’s novel, A Candle to Light the Sun, powerful and gripping. It was the first gutsy, rough Canadian novel I had read.
Pat Blondal called from the airport, and we arranged to meet at noon for lunch at the Royal York Hotel. We were still in the Imperial Room at five-thirty that afternoon. She was articulate, intelligent and strikingly beautiful, and I was stunned by the woman. Later I learned that she had been the campus beauty queen, envied by many of her classmates. She also happened to the top student. I decided to publish A Candle to Light the Sun at the earliest possible date. I offered to marry her too, if that was a requirement, but I pointed out that I would have to get permission from my wife.
McClelland was not the only reader powerfully affected by the book. One of Blondal’s classmates at university was the famous Canadian author, Margaret Lawrence, who stated in a letter to a friend in 1960:
I think her novel is really one of the best things on a prairie town that I’ve read, and it is much more as well ….
Lawrence’s comments are even more impressive in the context of her university relationship with Blondal:
Peggy (Margaret) had in fact been jealous of her classmate’s magnetic sex appeal.
To write the book Blondal, married to a doctor with two children, left her husband and sent her children away to visit family. Three months later she had written A Candle to Light the Sun.
Her intensity to write and be published were driven by terminal illness. Suffering from breast cancer she wrote in a race against death. She died at 32 knowing her book would be published.
For McClelland there was a regret to last the rest of his life:
Jack was haunted by that death. At a dinner in hour of Irving Layton, Blondal had felt “compelled to talk about the re-emergence of her cancer. ‘For God’s sake, Pat,’ I pleaded, ‘we’re here tonight to honour Irving Layton. I really don’t want to hear about cancer.’ She survived for less than two months after that party. I’ll carry the mark of that insensitivity to the grave.”
****Blondal, Patricia - (2016) - A Candle to Light the Sun