The 2014 Shadow Giller review season is under way — and Kimbofo has beaten me to the punch with a review of The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, by Heather O’Neill. It is O’Neill’s second novel, Kimbofo had liked her first (Lullabies for Little Criminals) and had this one on hand when the longlist was announced.
Here are the opening paragraphs from Kim’s review — you can read the entire review at her newly redesigned website here:
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is set in the bohemian quarter of Montreal during the 1995 Referendum. The story is told through the eyes of 19-year-old Nouschka Tremblay, whose life changes dramatically over the course of the novel: she begins night school, leaves home, marries a schizophrenic and falls pregnant. She also — rather unexpectedly — meets her long-lost mother for the first time since she was a little girl.
It is, essentially, a coming-of-age tale, but it’s not your usual run-of-the-mill one. For a start, Nouschka has an unbreakable bond with her twin brother, Nicolas, whom she loves and loathes in equal measure. The pair still live at home with the elderly grandfather, Loulou, who raised them. They even share a bed (aged 19, remember), but have spectacular yelling matches and physical punch-ups, often in public view.
“The thing is that Nicolas and I were afraid to be without each other. And whenever you are dependent on someone, then you naturally start to resent them. Everybody is born with an inkling, a desire to be free.”
And that desire to be free is one of the key themes of this novel: Nouschka craves it, but is also terrified by it. Despite being raised in a relatively Bohemian household and working a full-time job (in a magazine shop since leaving school aged 16), she hasn’t really grown up and is very much repressed by her father’s fame.
Her father, Etienne Tremblay, was a famous Québécois folk singer in the early 1970s with a knack for writing witty songs (apparently their humour made up for his inability to keep a tune). He took Nouschka and Nicolas on stage and television chat shows with him all the time and made them “wave wildly at the audience and blow kisses and say adorable things that he’d written”. Now, 15 years later, the twins are still recognised on the street, which keeps them unwittingly trapped in roles they should have long grown out of.
I promise that I will be in action soon, with a review of Frances Itani’s Tell — I have one or two previously read books to review and then my own 2014 Giller season will be in full swing.