First it was a review in The Globe and Mail. Then a glowing piece from NOW Toronto, and both a review and interview from The Danforth Review.

Next, When I Was Young and In My Prime, the poetic first novel by Alayna Munce (Nightwood, 2005) made the British Columbia Bestseller list.

Could it get any better? Apparently, yes. This week, the book appeared on the national bestseller list* for Canadian fiction - something almost unheard of for a book by a first-time author. Especially one that started out as poetry.

And no one is more surprised than the author. "Wow. I guess that means people are reading it," said Munce from her Toronto home on Tuesday. "It's an honour to have an audience, to not to be writing in a vacuum."

When I Was Young and In My Prime is a moving, fictional account of a young woman’s journey through the lives of her grandparents, her own very different urban reality, and the search for something ageless. Weaving together voices, diary entries, poems, conversations and lists, the book cuts to the heart of our search for intimacy and family, for what makes life meaningful and love real.

Just four years ago, Munce, a poet published in Breathing Fire 2, had shelved the poetry manuscript that was to become When I Was Young and In My Prime. Though several publishers expressed interest, they didn't think it was working in poetic form.

But Silas White, publisher of Nightwood Editions, recognized Munce's talent and pushed her in a different direction. "I felt the book had incredible potential to grow and flourish if re-approached as fiction rather than poetry," he said. "There was a clear narrative, which Alayna simply needed to identify and build upon. She did this and more, adding characters and even some plot developments. It felt akin to watching Michael Ondaatje move from a more disjointed Billy the Kid to a poetic novel such as In the Skin of a Lion or The English Patient. Just like those two books, When I Was Young and In My Prime has a brilliantly precise and felt poetic atmosphere that pulls readers' whole lives into her lens of the world and the people around us. It's impossible to shake once you put the book down."

One of the reasons for the book's success is its universal appeal. Mary Trentadue, owner of 32 Books Company in North Vancouver, BC, calls When I Was Young and In My Prime "a beautifully told story of family, love, life and aging... Everyone I have told to read it has thanked me – some with tears in their eyes."

For more about Alayna Munce, see the interview from The Danforth Review. CBC's Between the Covers will broadcast an excerpt on March 16, 2006.

For more information on the book, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Alayna Munce, contact Kathy Sinclair or Marisa Alps at 1-800-667-2988.

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* BookManager Bestseller List for Canadian Fiction, February 13, 2006