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Lemelin, Roger.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1984. 408pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7710-5260-X. CIP

Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

A terrible accident took the lives of innocent people, when a DC3 burst into flames above the town of St. Joachim, Quebec, in 1949. The crash was engineered by the jeweller, Albert Guay, who had his wife and 22 other passengers blown to bits in order to collect the life insurance.

Intrigued, Roger Lemelin picked up the clue to write another book about his beloved Plouffe family, the fourth in the successful Plouffe saga. The Crime of Ovide Plouffe appeared in its original version, Le Crime d'ovide Plouffe, in 1982. Fortunately, most the delicate wit and humour of the French original is preserved in Alan Brown's excellent translation. We find Ovide, now married to beautiful but flighty Rita, who would like to see him become as financially successful as his rich brother Napoleon. The younger brother, Guillaume, and his restless cousin, Ti-Mé, are finding civilian life rather dull after the excitement of war. Josephine, the Plouffe's widowed mother, is the real force in the family: with the support of Monsignor Folbeche, her parish priest, she schemes, plots and prays for each and every one of them. Of course they all get into some kind of trouble; the plot soon thickens and the suspense builds up very fast to an unbearable pitch.

Throughout the novel there are many wonderfully comic episodes, exquisitely described. Among these, a scene where influential Uncle Gedeon pays a visit to Maurice Dupiessis to plead for his son, Ti-Mé. After a rather wild night, Ti-Mé has landed in jail for cutting down telephone and hydro poles while under the influence. Suddenly, beautiful Rita dies in a plane crash, and all the evidence inexorably points to Ovide, although several are the people who might benefit from the crash. Is Ovide guilty, or is he innocent? It is hard to put the book down until the triumphant end, when good prevails over evil.

The story mixes fictitious with historical characters and combines social realism with satire and farce. Some rather lengthy explanations, and even footnotes, provide additional insights for the reader and blend in well with the narrative.

The book is very attractively produced: the clear, rather large print, the original, colourful cover and the sturdy binding make it most suitable for gift giving and for the library collection. However, because of the description of some unusual sexual activities, described as "butterfly love making," and because of Stan Labrie's exploits as a pimp, I would hesitate to place this sensational, yet very convincing novel in the school library.

In 1981, the story of the Plouffe family was made into an award winning Canadian motion picture. The film version of The Crime of Ovide Plouffe will be released later this year.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
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