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Andrée A. Michaud: Boundary

 

 
 
 

Quebec novelist Michaud (The River of Dead Trees, 2002, etc.) explores the devastating consequences of murder upon a close-knit community in this deeply psychological novel translated from the French.

Boundary, an Edenic summer destination for families both American and French-Canadian, is haunted by the story of a trapper named Pete Landry, whose obsession with a local woman ended in tragedy. Years later, in 1967, Landry’s legend lives on, and when two young women are savagely murdered, the vacationers fear that his ghost may still roam the woods and lakeshore. Chief Inspector Michaud, however, called in to investigate the crimes, knows that he is seeking flesh-and-blood evil. Can he and his officers uncover the truth before another girl dies?

This is a novel about liminal spaces and liminal time: much of the action occurs in the evening and at night, and even the year in which it’s set bridges the innocence and tumult of the 1960s. It’s also a novel about coming-of-age: Andrée, who narrates some of the novel, is a young girl teetering on the brink of becoming a young woman, and she both celebrates and fears this transition. Most of all, it is a dense and beautiful novel about the human condition. The deaths of the girls, Zaza and Sissy, form the foundation of the mystery, but the author deliberately explores all aspects of loss, grief, desire, guilt, maturation, and obsession, and her writing is lyrical and layered.

There is something haunting and fairy-tale–like in the wild setting and in the characters who inhabit and fear it. While most crime novels put the murder center stage, this one instead uses the crime to deeply examine the complexity of what it means to be alive. The one odd note is Michaud’s use of her own name for both the detective and the young narrator, for reasons that never become clear, but that’s a small quibble.

Spellbinding. This novel is no light read, and beneath its layers lies a vision profoundly rewarding, beautiful, and tragic.

 

-Kirkus Review


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