Marie Andrée Warnant-Côté
Volume 21 Number 1
This nuclear-diaster-aftermath novel was originally published in French in 1983. As the promotional material states that it was a best-selling novel for young people in Quebec, I was eager to read the English translation. Unfortunately, I found it a disappointing read.
The plot concerns a group of teenagers who become trapped deep underground while trying to escape from some unspecified danger that the beautiful Ariane, who possesses a sixth sense, has convinced them they face. Confronted with starvation, they become resourceful and develop essential survival skills.
After several weeks, they emerge to find a devastated landscape and a changed social structure, where strength and violence reign. At this point the plot becomes jam-packed, and in the space of twenty pages they are shot at and kidnapped, Ariane falls in love with her captor, he is killed by the jealous woman who commands the gang, and the group is rescued by the authorities.
I found the story unevenly paced. It has an adventurous beginning, a slow and repetitious middle, and an overburdened conclusion. Using the theme of the dire consequences of environmental destruction, the author has attempted to combine realism, fantasy, teenage romance and violence. This is overly ambitious and unsuccessful.
Some of the difficulty may be in the English translation, as there is enough awkwardness in phrasing to keep you conscious that it is a translation. But the dialogue is stilted and unrealistic of modern discourse between adolescents. For example, the last lines of the book are spoken by the member of the group nicknamed Grouch, who is describing Ariane: "She's been our guide, our light and our hope. And it's time she were treated as she deserves, because she's the most precious thing on our planet."
Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's Newfoundland
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