Ronald Sutherland

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Floralie, où es-tu, filled with boisterous, ribald humour and stylistic fireworks, is another impressive accomplishment—a genuine relief from the agonized, novel-escaped-from-the-confessional-booth trend in contemporary French-Canadian writing. In more ways than one, however, Floralie is a step backward. La Guerre, yes sir centres around the return of the body of a soldier killed in the war to his native village in rural Quebec. Floralie moves even farther into the past and describes the wedding night of the soldier's parents, Anthyme and Floralie Corriveau. But this chronological retrogression is attended by a curious retrogression in narrative technique. The book incorporates much of the paraphernalia of mediaeval literature, including dream allegory, monologue debate, sorcerer of a sort, enchanted forest and the seven deadly sins. Carrier seems to have taken the "Middle Ages" motif quite seriously.

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Between fantastical realism and real fantasy, however, there is a very thin line. And it seems to me that the difference between Carrier's La Guerre and his Floralie, the difference which makes the former a more powerful and meaningful novel, is that Floralie crosses the thin line into fantasy. If the first book can be described as Faulknerian realism in its method of probing the motivating forces and special genius of a society through exploration of the more grotesque and bizarre means by which that society reveals itself, the same cannot be said of the second book. Floralie is funny, often hilariously funny, and Carrier's gift for engaging narrative and brilliant colloquial diction stands him in good stead. But the novel offers few insights into what makes Quebec tick, and that, for better or worse, is what I suspect many readers of La Guerre, yes sir may have come to expect of Carrier.

On the other hand, Floralie does have something to say about what makes people tick, and about the mental peregrinations which can occur when they are not ticking the way they should…. The reason for the anxieties of both Anthyme...

(The entire section contains 517 words.)

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Joan Harcourt