"My October" by Claire Holden Rothman
Luc Lévesque is known as the Voice of a Generation in the province of Quebec. A celebrated novelist, his combination of books about his Montreal neighbourhood and his separatist views have made him a hero to many. His wife Hannah, faithfully translates his book into English. But she has spent her adult life distancing herself from her family, especially her father who was a special prosecutor during the October Crisis.
Hugo is the fourteen-year-old son of Luc and Hannah. Growing up in Montreal, in a dual French/English household and in the shadow of his father, he struggles with finding his own identity. One day, when he commits a reckless act at school, the whole family must deal with the fallout.
My October, by Claire Holden Rothman, is the tale of one family in whom the past and present of a province collide. A family that is torn apart by history and language, the book explores what happens to a family when they all struggle with language and identity.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the way it looks at a major moment in Canadian history through the lens of a modern family. The October Crisis is well-known but for those of us who were born after or not from Quebec, the ramifications and the cultural importance is not as well-understood. There are many layers to this book that move it beyond being a work of fiction.
I enjoyed reading this book but felt a little let down. I wanted more out of the story of Hugo, to understand more of his thoughts and motivations. I felt as though that storyline was competing with the marriage between Luc and Hannah and I didn’t feel fulfilled by either of them. The book felt crowded and it's as though to get it all in, some things had to be sacrificed.
That being said, there was good intent there and the book does provide much thought. I personally enjoy reading about real-life events through the lens of fiction because it provides us with so much more of the little things than a news article or textbook can. But because this is a book about relationships and identity meant to parallel a political event, I wonder how well this book will read outside of Canada.