Black BirdBook - 2003
With comic brilliance and a delight in the macabre, Michel Basilières holds a fun-house mirror up to a defining moment in Canadian history and reveals, among other things, a family having a very bad year.
Holed up in a shambling house at the base of Mount Royal is the family Desouche: three generations of English- and French-Canadians caught in the gears of a national emergency. Their world is dark and hard, but alive with hope and expectation. When one of the eldest, an Anglo Montrealer, dies at the hand of one of the youngest, a militant separatist, so begins a year of turmoil and change that culminates in the October Crisis.
Grave-robbing Grandfather consorts with prostitutes and mad scientists, loses an eye and gains a new vision. His disenchanted wife bonds with his canny pet crow. Mother sleeps her grief away through the seasons, while Father ineffectively schemes to get rich quick. Meanwhile, their twin children, Marie and Jean-Baptiste, find their personal ambitions clashing with their public actions as they derail each other at every turn.
In this wholly original novel alive with misfortune and magic, Michel Basilières uncovers a Montreal not seen in any other English-Canadian novel: a forgotten blue-collar neighbourhood in between the two solitudes. Gothic, outrageous, yet tender and wise, Black Bird is as liberating as the dreams of its wayward characters, and as gripping as the insurgencies that split its heart.
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A terrorist, two grave-robbers, two official languages, a crow, a ghost, and a matriarch in a coma are all in one household in this quirky fairytale-like story set in 1970s Montreal.
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