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Carrier, Roch.

Toronto, Anansi, c1984. 151pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-88784-139-2. (Anansi Fiction series #47) CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Chris Kempling

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

It is a pity we have had to wait three years for the translation of Lady with Chains. Roch Carrier's eighth novel, in an excellent translation by Sheila Fischman, is certain to become a classic in Canadian literature. In fact, comparisons with Poe's Telltale Heart and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment are unavoidable.

Carrier's sparse, uncluttered style conveys with chilling intensity the story of Virginie, a nineteenth-century pioneer woman who plots the poisoning of her husband after he thoughtlessly causes the death of their first-born son during a fierce blizzard.

The title refers to a legend of a woman who poisoned her employer and, after suffering a long sentence weighed by chains in the dungeons of France, was exiled to Quebec. Carrier merges the two distinctive stories, blurring the transitions from legend to reality so effectively that the reader is whirled into the vortex of Virginie's haunted consciousness.

Modern themes of reincarnation, soul possession, schizophrenia and psychosis parallel the traditions of pioneer-era Quebec, with its rigid Catholicism and unyielding environment. The psychological impact of Virginie's bloodless determination to kill her husband is devastating and mind-numbing.

Roch Carrier's novel will undoubtedly find its way onto the required reading lists of many Canlit courses. Like any well-crafted piece of art, it will invite a variety of interpretations. No library should be without it.

Chris Kempling, Quesnel, B.C.
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