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Demers, Dominique
Montreal, La courte echelle, 1992. 156pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 2-89021-171-1. (Roman +). CIP

Grades 8 to 10/Ages 13 to 16

Reviewed by Nancy Senior

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

In this novel, Dominique Demers evokes the loving but difficult relations between a mother who is dying of cancer and a fifteen-year-old daughter who realizes only after her mother's death that she was seriously ill. The mother's pain at leaving her daughter and the daughter's shock and confusion are quite moving, as is the daughter's seeking of consolation in the poetry of Musset.

However, there are a number of problems. The first is the style. The story is told in the first person by Marie-Lune. She uses a lot of short sentences. Like this. Short sentences and fragments can be effective. If they are used occasionally. But not constantly.

Despite some equivocation on the point, the novel suggests that sexual relations between fifteen-year-olds who love each other are quite acceptable. There is apparently no need to worry about painful breakups or the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies or abandoned career plans and there is no contraception, either. For a novel that is supposed to be realistic, this one deals heavily in fantasy.

A problem which is never properly addressed is the lack of truthfulness among family members. Marie-Lune lies to her parents about going to see her boyfriend; the parents tell her that the mother is just having a difficult menopause. Mother and daughter are thus robbed of the chance to say goodbye, and their last discussion is a quarrel. Marie-Lune, though upset about the quarrel, does not seem to find anything odd about the lies told to her. Although she is old enough for sex, she is apparently too young to be told about death until it happens. Her grandmother, perhaps feeling that two wrongs make a right, adds a broken promise by giving Marie-Lune letters which her mother had left for her to read at the age of twenty.

Despite some good qualities, this book is finally unsatisfying because of the failure to consider important issues that arise from the action.

Nancy Senior teaches French at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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