Gabrielle Roy’s career as a writer begins in earnest in 1945 when Bonheur d’occasion (The Tin Flute), her most famous novel, is published. It was an unprecedented literary and commercial success.
She became the first Canadian author to win the Prix Femina, a French literary prize, in 1947. That same year, The Tin Flute, the English translation of the novel, was published. It sold over 700,000 copies. She also became a member of the Royal Society of Canada and she married Dr. Marcel Carbotte. The couple moved to France, where Gabrielle wrote what was her favourite novel, La Petite Poule d’Eau (Where Nests the Waterhen). She came back to Québec in 1950 and lived in the City of Québec. In 1957, she bought a summer home at Petite-Rivière-Saint-François in Charlevoix County, where she wrote most of her works. Amongst the themes developed by Gabrielle Roy, are the psychological and existential angst of 20th century human beings, the living conditions of artists and members of the First Nations, nature, travels, teaching, the difficult adaptation of pioneers in Western Canada and her childhood memories.
She also wrote several stories for children. During her creative periods, she travelled often in Canada, the United States and in Europe. She died on July 13, 1983, of a heart attack, at Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, leaving an important francophone literary heritage in Québec, in Manitoba and everywhere in the world.
In 1983, Bonheur d’occasion was made into a film by Claude Fournier and Marie-Josée Raymond. In 1989, the historic importance of the Roy family home received its first public recognition through the efforts of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface (St. Boniface Historical Society) who erected an historic plaque in front of the house on Deschambault Street. During the 1980s, Annette Saint-Pierre started planning her project to transform the famous author’s childhood home into a museum. Since Gabrielle Roy was not very receptive to the idea, Annette Saint-Pierre waited until Gabrielle’s death before beginning the necessary work.