Sunday, 4 January 2015

Review: A Season in the Life of Emmanuel

A Season in the Life of Emmanuel
A Season in the Life of Emmanuel by Marie-Claire Blais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this novel.

Firstly, I can certainly see why it's considered an important book in Canadian literature. I'm glad I read it.

However, I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed it.

It is not that it is dark, which it truly is - the lives these children are living is abysmal. I enjoy the dark and the macabre very much.

I think, in part, I do not have the historical knowledge of Quebec in this time frame to contextualize the book properly. I was grateful for the Afterword by Nicole Brossard to help situate the book a little more clearly for me.

I also firmly believe that any time you read a translation, you're bound to lose something in it. Obviously, many English readers love this book and I can see why they might. However, something about it just sits strangely with me, and I find myself at a loss regarding what to think about it.

Perhaps it was the reality of it that leaves me with these feelings towards it. I am sure that this book is not far from the truth regarding life in that time and in those circumstances, and that strikes me with a level of discomfort and grief for so many childhoods that were lost to such cruelty and poverty.

If you're Canadian, I do think it is worth your time to read this, as it is a glimpse of French-Canadian history that I don't believe we get to see in many other places. It is just a slim book, and shouldn't take much time out of your life.

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