The Immaculate Conception

I read The Immaculate Conception in the bathtub, which I think is higher praise than saying I read it in bed (where I read to make myself tired) or on the subway (where I read to pass time). Bathtub reading is a soothing, warm, active way to read.

If you’re not as familiar with Quebec writer Gaétan Soucy as you are of Anglo-literary great Timothy Findley it’s because we have had to wait over 10 years for his work to be translated. The Immaculate Conception (L’Immaculée conception) was originally published in French in 1994. This is Soucy’s first novel (he has now published four)-a diabolical story set in 1920s working class Montreal where an arsonist is responsible for the death of 75 people. Soucy, a Montrealer by birth, shows a city with a cast of sexually repressed and religiously mollified characters that are seemingly ordinary: a schoolteacher, priest and bank clerk all have tragic secrets. The characters are not particularly original or quirky-the sentimental schoolteacher, the gentle priest, the queer bank clerk-and at times their stories seem too random and disconnected, but they will eventually come together in a memorable, disturbing conclusion. Critics have said that Soucy writes with dashes of brilliance resembling Dostoevsky and visions equal to that of the Brothers Grimm, and I agree. The tale of Wilson, a brutish character who appears abruptly halfway through the text will remain burned in your memory. I finished The Immaculate Conception in the bathtub. When I got out, the pruned feet were from the water, the goosebumps were from the book. (Erin Kobayashi)

by Gaétan Soucy, $22.95, 320 pgs, Anansi, 110 Spadina Ave., Suite 801, Toronto, ON, M5V 2K4, anansi.ca

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