“Quebec literature is seldom to be found where we expect it.”
House of Anansi
“He followed Claire into the club, keeping close as they walked deeper into the bare-bulbed electric light, where sweat, smoke, alcohol, and perfume washed over them in a raucous wave that almost knocked Serafim back. The music was more ardent and raw than in the other clubs, with newly arrived musicians pulling bronze trumpets and saxophones out of cases lined with purple velvet and shouldering their way closer to the stage. To Serafim, it was bedlam. Claire, on the other hand, fed on the chaos.”
Despite what the title may have you believe, Serafim and Claire is no love story. It is a novel about rash decisions, about the interconnectedness of our lives, and about chasing dreams. But there is a sweetness to the story, a redemptive quality to its end. It is the kind of novel that keeps you up with the bedside lamp on until the last page is turned.
La petite et le vieux reminded me of home. True, I didn’t grow up in working-class Québec in the 1980s or fancy converting to the opposite sex. I didn’t even have a paper route when I was young. And sure, Hélène, alias “Joe,” had an alcoholic father and a potty mouth, made friends with the local drunk, and was working for pocket change in a bingo hall by the time she was eleven years old. But she was also scared of the dark. And scared of her big sister. And scared of disappointing her father. She could have been any of us at eleven.