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Maheux-Forcier, Louise.

Translated by David Lobdell. Ottawa, Oberon Press, cl986. 14lpp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-642-9 (cloth) $23.95, 0-88750-643-7 (paper) $12.95.

Reviewed by Dianne Clipsham

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

Maheux-Forcier's strange and very personal novel won wide acclaim when first published in French Canada, winning the Governor General's Award for Fiction in 1970. This translation by David Lobdell brings the work to a new audience. It is a complex, fascinating novel, combining poetry and stylized prose to make it admirable as a work of art, but, at the same time, limiting any attempt at a brief summary.

Therese, the narrative voice, is writing of her life and loves in an attempt to free herself of the enigmatic "Zoe," and of the guilt she feels about her attraction to other artistic, free-spirited women. This private obsession with Zoe, a childhood friend who awakened the first sexual attraction in Therese. and the need to write (to Zoe, and to other women) as a form of expiation, has the effect of detaching the reader from the narrator.

The struggle between Reason (society's revulsion at lesbianism) and Passion (Therese's search for pleasure with her own sex) has always been painful, and this story is no exception. Therese, while realizing her forbidden attraction, hides it from her conscious self for a long time because of her learned reaction to perversion, Renaud, with whom she shares an attraction toward women, is more of a brother than a lover and she marries him and tolerates his affair with his secretary because of her own guilt over an affair with the aptly named Isis.

The lines between illusion and reality become more and more blurred as time progresses: Zoe is present to Therese (indeed, torments her) hut to no one else. Yet, as we discover in the end, Zoe has her own peculiar reality. This novel is a clever, painful puzzle in which the pieces are turned over and examined for meaning by the narrator and that finally fall into place at the end.

Dianne Clipsham, A.Y. Jackson S.S., Kanata, Ont.
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