Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold

The Dog Years : A Novel

Book - 2006
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Possibly the greatest novel published in Canada in 2004 -- the first in a historic series.

It's as if Dickens or Balzac -- or Rohinton Mistry -- had decided to write the book that summed up life in east-end Montreal. This is the first volume of a quartet that has taken Quebec by storm, selling over forty-five thousand copies.

On the very first page, we meet Charles Thibodeau being born. It's 1966 and the rest of Montreal is more excited by the fact that a new subway system is opening, but his birth is a big event for Charles's parents and for their working-class neighbours.

Sadly, Charles's mother dies when he is four, her funeral interrupted by War Measures Act soldiers on the streets. Soon young Charles, like a younger Huck Finn, is fending for himself. While he adopts a stray dog, Boff, in turn he is taken away from his drunken, violent father and becomes part of the Fafard family nearby.

His adventures follow thick and fast -- at school, where he avoids becoming a teacher's pet, despite being smart, in a part-time job where he encounters a pederast, and at summer camp, where he establishes himself as a rebel. By the end of the book, he has fully earned his title, Charles the Bold, leaving us eager to follow his further adventures.

But the real hero of this book is Montreal, and its scores of memorable, lively characters who leap off the page. Like Gabrielle Roy in The Tin Flute , Yves Beauchemin has given us an unforgettable portrait of life in the francophone east end -- with more to come in this ambitious and richly rewarding saga.
Publisher: Toronto, Ont. : McClelland & Stewart, c2006
ISBN: 9780771011474
Branch Call Number: FICTION BEA
Characteristics: 360 p. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Grady, Wayne
Alternative Title: Charles le téméraire. English


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Cdnbookworm Apr 18, 2011

The first in a trilogy, this book takes us from the birth of Charles to his entry to high school. Details are abundant, and the style has been compared, fairly, to that of Dickens. I found it slow in spots, but the characters stayed interesting. Charles loses his baby sister, followed by his mother, and his father is less interested in him than alcohol. Charles has an affinity for dogs and they play large roles in his life. He is a good-natured hardworking boy with a quick smile and a tendency to fairness. Various people in his community take an interest in him and participate in his development. I'm already looking forward to the next book.

Jan 02, 2008

Now here is a jewel of a novel with, I understand, more to come. I have heard this called "enchanting" and that is exactly right. Somewhat Victorian or "old-fashioned" in style, or perhaps this is a result of the translation. Set in Montreal, this coming-of-age novel grabs you and holds you right to the end, where you simply want more.

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