Across the Bridge
In Across the Bridge, four of the eleven stories are connected, following the fortunes of the Carette family in Montreal. In “1933,” their widowed mother teaches Berthe and Marie to deny that she was a seamstress and to say instead that she was “clever with her hands.” In “The Chosen Husband,” the luckless suitor Louis has to undergo the front-parlour scrutiny of Marie’s mother and sister: “But then Louis began to cough and had to cover his mouth. He was in trouble with a caramel. The Carettes looked away, so that he could strangle unobserved.” We then follow their marriage, the birth of Raymond, and Raymond’s flight from his mother and aunt to his eventual role as a motel manager in Florida. With the exception of “The Fenton Child,” an eerie story set in postwar Montreal, the other stories take place in the Paris Mavis Gallant knows so well. “Across the Bridge,” the title story, begins with the narrator’s mother throwing her reluctant daughter’s wedding invitations into the Seine: “I watched the envelopes fall in a slow shower and land on the dark water and float apart. Strangers leaned on the parapet and stared, too, but nobody spoke.” This is a superb collection of stories by a writer at the top of her form.
McClelland & Stewart
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