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Black Bird by Michel Basilieres
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Black Bird (2003)

by Michel Basilieres

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This is an enchanting book with plenty of twists, turns and tweaks to the historical record. It concerns the Desouche family, who live in a house at the base of Mount Royal in Montreal. They're an Anglophone/Francophone mixed family and their dynamics are pretty dysfunctional. There are grave robbers, FLQ terrorists, budding poets, worn-down women, devout Catholics and the titular black bird, a crow owned by Grandfather. The characters are named by their relationship to the youngest generation in the book (Grandfather, Uncle, Mother and Father), but the book is not told from the first-person perspective. The narrative is third person limited that shifts from one character to another as events unfold.

The events of this story require some suspension of disbelief and perhaps a bit of silencing your internal historian, especially if you are familiar with the events of the October Crisis (and if you're not, don't go researching until after you finish the book), but the characters are all very vivid and one becomes very much invested in their various plights, even when they do completely unlovable things like stealing electricity and gas, or robbing graves, or committing acts of terrorism.

This book comes very highly recommended, especially for anyone who is familiar with Montreal -- it comes alive in these pages. One part that moved me particularly deeply was the scene involving Brother André's heart, if only because of the Blue Rodeo song called "Brother André's Heart". So yes, if you like slightly offbeat novels that are almost-but-not-quite historically accurate, you may want to check out this one. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 17, 2011 |
Black Bird is a magical realist recreation of Montreal during the 1970s. The story focuses on the Desouches family: Grandfather is a grave robber supplying raw material to a doctor with Frankenstein-like plans, Aline is the unhappy woman Grandfather conned into marriage, Father is a petty criminal, Marie is a devoted FLQ terrorist, and Jean-Baptiste is an unsuccessful poet. Their chaotic lives spiral further out of control after a family member is killed by a bomb set by Marie.

The story is hilarious and macabre, and although the characters are a pretty unsympathetic group, they are charming and draw you into their story. The author rearranges historical events to suit his story, but since the novel is not aiming for realism this didn't bother me. I enjoyed this book tremendously and am looking forward to reading whatever Michel Basilieres writes next. ( )
1 vote lazybee | Mar 20, 2007 |
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