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Louise Maheux-Forcier
Translated by David Lobdell

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990. 125pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-796-4 (paper), $12.95, 0-88750-795-6 (cloth), $25.95
Originally published in French as Paroles et musique in 1973

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

It has been seventeen years since Words and Music, or more accurately Paroles et musique (Le Cercle du livre de France, 1973), first appeared on Cana­dian bookshelves. However, time has done nothing to diminish the power of this seemingly slim work, so aptly described by its title. Indeed, this novel is as appropriate for the 1990s as it was in the 1970s. It is certainly just as poignant.

The central character in the novel is a woman, a musician, who lies in a sterile hospital room, surrounded by the high-tech gizmos of modern medicine, waiting, as she believes, to die. As she waits she replays her life, a chorus here, a chorus there, until, at last, a whole symphony is exposed for the reader to feel and to interpret.

Louise Maheux-Forcier (and transla­tor David Lobdell) have created the subtle combination of poetry and prose, the terse economy of words, that richly allows the story to unfold with clarity and compassion:

I am hauled out of the water like a big fish at the end of a line, feeling exactly like the glittering, bedazzled, soon-to-be-encountered tern emerging from the flying foam at the end of my line of vision ....

I rest in the sweet odour of ether, in the certitude of Genevieve's presence. I am alive.

What ultimately happens, or has happened, to the central character, however, is not as vital as the process of experiencing life with her. Like any superb classical movement. Words and Music transports the reader to other dimensions. We keep a piece of its beauty within us.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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