9780771078415 / 0771078412

Tin Flute


Publisher:McClelland and Stewart



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About the book:

The Tin Flute, Gabrielle Roy's first novel, is sadly one of those books that is more often encountered in the classroom as a "milestone of Quebec literature" than read for its own considerable merits. A big novel, full of the misery of poverty and disenfranchisement and approaching melodrama in its litany of misfortune, it is also a captivating and humane tale of Montreal at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Roy devotes most of her attention to Florentine Lacasse, a naive young waitress in Montreal's St-Henri neighbourhood. Florentine's family is immense and dirt poor, and their neighbourhood is still caught in the last echoes of the Depression. Florentine gains some hope when she meets and falls for Jean Lévesque, a cynical and ambitious young man who toys with her out of perversity. Meanwhile, Jean's one friend, Emmanuel Létourneau, a newly enlisted soldier from one of St-Henri's few middle-class families, falls in love with Florentine, but he lacks Jean's menacing appeal. As these romances work themselves out, the Lacasse family slides farther into despair, weathering disaster after disaster. Meanwhile the men of Montreal begin to join the rapidly mobilizing army in a final attempt to rescue themselves from destitution and boredom.

The Tin Flute was one of the first works of fiction to describe urban French Quebec, and it is an obvious precursor to the works of writers like Michel Tremblay. Roy won a series of honours for The Tin Flute, including France's Prix Femina, and the novel certainly deserves its reputation. Even Tremblay cannot equal Roy's evocation of the look and feel of mid-century working-class Montreal. --Jack Illingworth

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