Songs for the Cold of Heart

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction / Adult Nonfiction - LINDA THORLAKSON

Eric Dupont Peter Mc­cam­bridge (Trans­la­tor) QC Fic­tion (JULY) Soft­cover $29.95 (608pp) 978-1-77186-147-2

Eric Dupont’s fam­ily saga Songs for the Cold of Heart res­ur­rects an­cient sto­ry­telling meth­ods, rec­og­niz­ing the fact that if a fam­ily’s his­tory is to sur­vive, its sto­ries must be com­pelling enough to be re­told to and by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Ea­ger lis­ten­ers don’t re­quire that fam­ily tales be wholly true, even—only that they be too vivid and en­gag­ing to be doubted or for­got­ten.

The La­mon­tagne fam­ily’s story be­gins in the vil­lage of Rivière-du-loup, Que­bec, with sto­ry­teller Papa Louis, or “The Horse,” and his daugh­ter at its hub. Af­ter trav­el­ing back­ward and for­ward in time, the story con­cludes sev­eral gen­er­a­tions later in Rome.

The novel is as much a so­cial and po­lit­i­cal study of the times and places it passes through as it is the story of the La­mon­tagnes. Fed more by ru­mors and con­jec­ture than facts, the most en­gag­ing of their sto­ries are ini­tially nour­ished and steered by the teller’s em­bel­lish­ments and in­ten­tions. Be­fore long, the sto­ries are telling them­selves; the less ver­i­fi­able they are, the more real and mul­ti­di­men­sional they be­come.

The book serves as an ex­per­i­ment in dif­fer­ent forms of sto­ry­telling. The an­cient tech­niques em­ployed in the first half of the book even­tu­ally give way to self-ab­sorbed mono­logues pos­ing as let­ters from one child to an­other. Ar­riv­ing on the heels of such rich, vi­brant, mem­o­rable prose, the let­ters don’t stand a chance, es­pe­cially since The Horse and his daugh­ter Madeleine have re­lin­quished their cen­tral po­si­tions to char­ac­ters lack­ing the courage, charisma, and flair needed to fuel a jour­ney of six hun­dred pages.

The let­ters ul­ti­mately shift the fo­cus from their writ­ers to sto­ries told to their writ­ers. Madeleine re­turns to the cen­ter; clas­sic sto­ry­telling re­sumes. Loose ends are weaved into a saga well worth telling and retelling.

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