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Simon Johnston

Simon Johnston

Photo: Emily Cooper, Vancouver

Simon's novel “The House of Wives," inspired by the lives of his mixed race family was published by Penguin Canada and Penguin India in 2016. His short stories have appeared in Ricepaper magazine and short fiction won the Friends of White Rock Library’s Writing Contest in 2015 and also the Surrey Writers' Club award. Simon was born and raised in Hong Kong and educated in Canada at McMaster University ‘72. He did post graduate theatre studies in New York, returning to Canada to work as an artistic director, director and playwright most recently as the Executive and Artistic Director of the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, BC. In 2011 he was awarded Richmond’s Cultural Leadership Award. Recently retired from the Gateway Theatre in 2012 where he was made the company's first Artistic Director Emeritus. He now lives in South Surrey, B.C. with his wife Sheila and their sybaritic cat Dash working on his next novel.

British Columbia


The House of Wives. Penguin Random House Canada, 2016
The House of Wives. Penguin Random House India, 2016


Cultural Leadership for Body of Work, 2011
Winner White Rock and Surrey Writers' Club for Pauline's Diamon, 2016
Winner White Rock and Surrey Libraries for A Good Morning, 2015
Eligible for National Public Readings Program:


Presentation Description

"The House of Wives" my historical novel is inspired by the lives of my great grandfather who was a 19th century Jewish opium merchant. He plied his trade between India and Hong Kong and married two wives, one from India and the other a Chinese woman from whom I am descended. In my story, all three lived together in a mansion called Kingsclere.

I use a slide presentation (20 minutes) that shows the background of the opium trade: how poppies are planted, harvested and then manufactured for sale. I go on to talk about the route my ancestors took and how they became wealthy. I show pictures of their mansions and describe their life style in the former British colony. I also discuss women's issues of the time and what was expected of them when they lived in a house of wives. 

The slide show is followed by a 20 minute Q & A and discussion on subjects such as history versus fiction and how the two are often confused; the morality of opium trading; the custom of wealthy men having multiple wives and how that affects their offspring; and the research it took to track down a story that spans 60+ years and encompasses two continents. 

Presentation Length:
50 minutes includes Q&A
Historical Fiction
10 and up
Audience Size:
12 and up