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The Immaculate Conception by Gaetan Soucy

The Immaculate Conception (original 1994; edition 2007)

by Gaetan Soucy, Lazer Lederhendler (Translator)

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493238,224 (3.77)9
Title:The Immaculate Conception
Authors:Gaetan Soucy
Other authors:Lazer Lederhendler (Translator)
Info:House of Anansi Press (2007), Edition: Tra, Paperback, 328 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Canadian, 2012

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The Immaculate Conception by Gaétan Soucy (1994)



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Years ago after my friends and I had outgrown using the word 'yucky' we sometimes used the word 'wormy'. It implied something less straightforward than 'I'm disgusted' or 'this is repellent' and it went beyond 'yucky' because we used it only when referring to something that seemed wholly outside our sheltered little world. And it's the best word to describe how I feel about Immaculate Conception--I cast about for another, but none seemed so near the mark.

Just as I don't know how to sum up the book in a different word I've no idea how best to review it, or in fact whether it's possible to write a review that does justice to all aspects of it; indeed, I wrote this review as much to dispel that feeling of worminess as to draw attention to the novel. At any rate, the setting is a working-class district of Montreal in what's probably the 1920's and the main characters are a schoolteacher teetering on the brink of madness, an apparently simple-minded clerk tormented by memories of a traumatic event, the clerk's vilely malicious and oppressive father, and a well-intentioned priest who is helpless to relieve the suffering and to mitigate the evils of the people around him.

Soucy focusses now upon one character, now upon another, now upon the present, now upon the past. This doesn't make the book hard to follow; I did though sometimes confuse the events of one character's childhood with those of another's, and perhaps that's understandable as the book is rife with child abuse. It has as well its fair share of rape and murder and more than its fair share of thoroughly contemptible characters, one of whom seems as close to being purely evil as any other I've read about.

Soucy as always writes wonderfully well, so well that he manages to entice a reader to carry on even when the account becomes gruelling and so well that he carries off hints of the fantastic, strands that defy explanation, and a revelation that is the stuff of Grand Guignol.

I've seen comparisons of this novel to works by Dostoevsky, Poe, Sade, and more. In spirit though not style or content the authors it reminded me of were Celine and Lautreamont. Overall, a book of great power--though I half wish it weren't.

(If you're seriously interested in Immaculate Conception I recommend reading an extraordinary review of it on amazon.ca. I don't agree with all of it, and it is because of poor layout difficult to read, but it gives a better idea of how strong an impression the book can make upon a reader than anything I can say.)
  bluepiano | Aug 31, 2014 |
This is a gritty story about Remouald Tremblay, a beautiful and intelligent child who suffered trauma that turned him into a meek, underachieving bank clerk, uncomfortable with most people. We meet him as a young adult, caring for his invalid stepfather (Seraphon) and the niece (Sarah) of his manager.

It is also the story of Clementine Clement, a teacher estranged from her family and still pining the loss of her fiance and stillborn child. And the children she teaches, the school principle, the grotesque drifter, Wilson, the creepy fire chief, Roger, and the alcoholic widow....all of whom are marked in some way by their upbringing and the pain life has inflicted upon them.

This book explores topics of dealing with tragedy, religion, and living in a neighbourhood that doesn't provide the security and comfort of a community.

The story wanders back and forth, and at times, I had trouble keeping things straight. There are a lot of threads woven into the tapestry of this neighbourhood...some seem less important than others maybe a bit disjointed, but all contribute to the richness of the atmosphere Mr. Soucy manages to create. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Dec 15, 2012 |
The novel, set in Montreal in the 1920s, starts with an arson fire in a pub, and revolves around Remouald and his father, Seraphon, and other people who find themselves connected to the burnt out shell.
When it’s done, it appears to be a scathingly critical view of the Catholic religion and how trying to live religiously to its principles leads to sexual repression and fairly awful outcomes.
There were things about this novel that were brilliant. I loved the fresh, cliché free and hilarious style, with striking metaphors, and the characters that were incredibly well drawn, quirky and bordering on grotesque.
Then, there were things that were not completely to my satisfaction. There were loose ends in the narration and exaggerated, unnecessary gruesomeness.
It failed to enthrall me, but I saw sparkles of genius on the way.
( )
1 vote Niecierpek | Aug 22, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0887847366, Paperback)

In the isolated parish of Nativité, 75 residents have recently died in a blaze. The survivors’ fractured world is suffocatingly circumscribed by neighbors and the Church. Focusing on troubled bank clerk Remouald Tremblay and desperately unrequited Clémentine Clément, Gaétan Soucy’s acclaimed fourth novel explores the same ominously enchanted terrain as his award-winning Vaudeville! Soucy brilliantly illuminates the dark corners where ordinary people fear to look and reminds that for every moment of justice, there are numerous crimes that will remain forever secret.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:21 -0400)

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