Saturday, May 5, 2018

Meeting of April 23rd, 2018

The April meeting of Muse & Views Bookclub was hosted by Jane at Colette's home.  Present were Colette, Janet, Linda, Michèle, and Shirley.  Jane though she could not attend, provided us with very nice cheese from Québec, pickled vegetables and turkey sausage and of course wine.  Colette provided a very nice dessert, coffee and tea.

This month we discussed Michèle's book choice Kamouraska by the Québec author Anne Hébert. Born in 1916, in Sainte Catherine de Fossambault, about 40 km north-east of Québec City  Anne Hébert was the eldest of four children. Her father was a civil servant, of acadian descent.  Her maternal grandfather, Eugène Étienne Taché was the architect of Québec parliament buildings.  His grandfather was Lord Achille Taché of Kamouraska.  

Anne Hébert, in international French literature is a well known and respected author. She wrote 10 novels,  poetry,  plays and a book of short stories.  She also wrote 8 film scripts including those for Kamouraska and Les Fous de Bassan. She won 20 literary prizes in Canada and France including the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry and fiction and the Prix Fémina in 1982 one of France’s most prestigious prizes for her novel Les Fous de Bassan.  Kamouraska, Les Fous de Bassan and a short story, Le Tourent were made into films.  

Kamouraska is based on a true story of the murder of Le Seigneur (Lord) Achille Taché of Kamouraska in 1839 by an American doctor George Holmes who was in love with Taché’s wife Éleonore d’Estimauville.  Anne Hébert took this fact  from her family history and created what many of us saw as a gothic novel about a young woman, Elizabeth who married a brute of man when she was 15, conspired to kill him with her lover doctor who was a childhood friend of her husband. The book begins with Elizabeth at the death bed of her second husband Monsieur Rolland.  He is afraid to be alone with her, he knows what happened to her first husband.  Elizabeth relives her life through nightmares and her thoughts.  

Most of us found this novel a difficult read.  One member felt she was in a nightmare belonging to someone else.  Beth gave a good description of how she read the book and many of us felt the same. "There’s the sense of isolation in the narrator’s painful, horrific experiences and frustrations, and the claustrophobia of the endless swirling vortex of her memories, nightmarish fears and justifications.  We keep trying to decipher what really happened.  We also keep trying to decide how we feel about her.  It’s a very vivid picture of the remote place and society as she experiences it, but exhausting and bitter to read.  Seems to me like a gothic novel  -  sort of like Wuthering Heights. "

We all found the novel frustrating to read, difficult to understand in some parts but as Carla said, "the book was well written and the nightmarish quality had a great affect on us as readers." 

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