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Michel Tremblay.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1984.
262pp, paper, $12.95.
ISBN 0-7710-8579-6.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Kenneth A. Elliott.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Originally published in French as Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des Saints-Anges, in 1980, this work is the second in a series of four novels depicting the French-Canadian reality in Canada.

The publication itself is without table of contents or chapter headings, save for a musical division into four movements. These Tremblay uses as more or less separations for the novel based on his inspiration while listening to Brahms's Fourth Symphony. The print is clear with wide margins, making for easy reading. Having a table of contents with chapter headings and a character description would have expanded the usefulness of this work in the field of education, especially at the secondary level.

Nevertheless, Tremblay's creative genius is once again seen in what goes on at the Ecole des Saints-Anges. Just as in his other works, this can be read and enjoyed at several levels. One can see this work as a bitter-sweet story centred around the annual Corpus Christi ceremony held at the parish of Saint Stanislas-de-Kostka in Montreal; the involvement of the children, Therese, Pierrette, and Simone, with the good sisters at the school whose responsibility it is to prepare for the Corpus Christi ceremony. On a deeper level, however, Tremblay digs beneath the surface of Church facades, nuns in impeccable robes, priestly authority, to the very power religion exerts over people in the form of the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec.

The Church's past influence on the French-Canadian is a recurrent theme for Tremblay. The reason for its power and how it was maintained down to the particular individual family member comes through constantly in the exploits of his characters. The Church in all its human frailty, the Church in constant need of reform, is the side he brings starkly to his readers. Yet, the seeds of this reformation can be found within the Church herself as the characters of Sister Sainte-Catherine and Sister Clump Foot exemplify. This is perhaps Tremblay's most valuable contribution, beyond his literary achievement. He shows us things we would rather not look at; he tells us things we would rather not hear. At this level, the novel is upsetting and disturbing. But, after all, truth does have a way sometimes of being iconoclastic.

For more background on Tremblay and a deeper analysis of his collected works, the reader is directed to Professor Renate Usmiani's Michel Tremblay.*

* Reviewed vol. X/4 November 1982 p.254.

Kenneth A. Elliott, Laval Catholic High School, Laval, QB.
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