As we head into the 2020 summer holidays, which are likely to be more, ahem, local than usual, we wanted to give you a little taste of Québec to spice up your time at the cottage, the campground, or the park. While you might not make it to the beaches of Bora-Bora or the highest peaks in the Alps, you will go east, to our neck of the woods, where you can soak up our language, our culture, a bit of our history, and a part of our landscape. Oh, and don’t forget! The shop will be closed tomorrow in honour of Canada Day. True to form, we’ll be back at it on July 2. Happy reading!
Photo credit | Marco Goran Romano
It was pretty much a given that we’d start this list with Paul. They’re books that anyone can read. And everybody loves them. The kind of books that kids want to pick up just as much as their grandparents do. Because, no matter where in Québec you happen to live, you’ll find yourself in one of Paul’s adventures. Paul Up North, Paul in the Metro, Paul Goes Fishing, Paul in Québec City, Paul Joins the Scouts, Paul Moves Out. A simple, authentic writing style and delightful illustrations make the little things we love about life in the Belle Province shine through. The series has been translated into several languages, including, of course, English.
Few are the Quebecers who didn’t read The Tin Flute in high school. Or who haven’t heard of this book. If we set aside the love story between Florentine Lacasse and Jean Lévesque (and eventually Emmanuel Létourneau), The Tin Flute paints a picture of 1940s Montréal where French Canadians are struggling to survive the Second World War and the Great Depression. We rediscover the Saint-Henri of yesteryear, with its shops and fifteen-cent restaurants, its residents and sayings. Where people lived on next to nothing while stuck in the mire of war, yet still managed to find a little bit of happiness in the end. In 2017, the publication of The Tin Flute was declared a historical event in Québec’s heritage by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications. Translated into English a number of years ago.
If you like novels about travel, freedom, and wide-open spaces, you’ll love Volkswagen Blues. Even though much of the story takes place on American roads between Detroit and Chicago, and along the Oregon Trail, the signature Québec vibe doesn’t fail to leave its mark. Inspired by the Beat Generation, the author draws a parallel with the French exploration of North America. It’s a nod to our sometimes-bohemian mood, with a bit of hippie tossed in for good measure. Translated into English by Sheila Fischman.
Ru is a tale of complexity and depth that is written with simplicity and lightness. In a series of vignettes, it tells the story of a Vietnamese immigrant who arrived in Québec by boat, with her family. It’s a journey from a palatial life in Saigon, to a Malaysian refugee camp and, finally, arrival on Canadian soil—not to mention the discovery of Québec society and customs through the eyes of a person who is rebuilding her life here. Think of it as the Québec version of the American Dream. Translated into English by Sheila Fischman.
Needless to say, this list could have gone on and on, leaving you scrolling for pages and pages. Québec literature is rich, diverse, and ever-changing. To say that we’re proud of it is an understatement. So if you want to read more, don’t hesitate to let us know. At the shop, we’re never at a loss for book recommendations!
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