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CanLit150

Celebrate more than 150 years of Canada with 150 books.

Catherine Gildiner Recommends

Kamouraska by Anne Hébert

Kamouraska (1970)

(From the Canadian Encyclopedia)

Kamouraska is a psychological gothic romance based on an actual murder committed in 1839 in the village of Kamouraska, Qué, by a female ancestor of the author. The action takes place in Elizabeth's mind on the night of her second husband's impending death, transmuting the facts surrounding an earlier crime of passion into a haunting study of internalized guilt and the search for freedom.

Attending Jérome Rolland's sickbed, she revisits in dream and memory her stifling childhood; her escape into an unhappy marriage to the squire of Kamouraska; an affair with Dr Nelson, with whom she plotted to kill her husband; her trial and acquittal; and her subsequent quest for respectability, leading to her second, equally stifling marriage. A fragmented juxtaposition of first- and third-person narration communicates Elizabeth's inner turmoil in an interior monologue with feminist overtones. Claude Jutra's film Kamouraska (1973) captures the poetic quality of Hébert's writing.

Anne Hébert

(From Canada Channel)

Anne Hébert was a novelist and poet born in Ste-Catherine-de-Fossambault, Québec, August 1, 1916. She was a descendant of French-Canadian historian François-Xavier Garneau and died in Montréal, Québec, January 22, 2000. Hébert was influenced by her father, an author and Quebec civil servant, and her cousin, poet Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau. She moved to Paris in the 1950s. Her major novels are Kamouraska (1970), based on a 19th century murder, Les enfants du sabbat (1975) (Children of the Black Sabbath), Héloise (1980), about a Parisian vampire, and Les fous de Bassan (1982) (In the Shadow of the Wind), about a double rape and murder. Her poetry includes Les songes en equilibre (1942) and Le tombeau des rois (1953).