Marble Season


92 pages
ISBN 0-88750-883-9
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick is a librarian at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.


Sheilagh Fletcher was seven years old when she committed her first
deadly sin—envy. “How could Lise Lefevre, who lived on Kik Cola,
Vachon cakes and pink popcorn, manage to look so beautiful” (in her
first communion dress). These humorous and poignant stories of growing
up in Montreal’s East End in the 1950s, on a street dominated by the
massive Ste. Philomene’s church complex and surrounded by triplexes
with outdoor staircases, are told mostly from the point of view of an
Anglo child from a grey Presbyterian family, who is drawn, but
frightened into hostility, by the color and mystique of the forbidden
French Catholic world around her. The stories centre on the universe of
childhood (the business of collecting and trading comics, snowball
fights, playing marbles, making friends and enemies); the resilience of
childhood in the face of disillusionment; and the child’s perception
of the foreign adult world, where people are isolated from one another,
unable to connect due to barriers of language, culture, and prejudice.

For one who grew up in Montreal in those times, but long exiled to
Toronto, these stories evoke almost forgotten nostalgic memories of
marbles kept in a Crown Royal bag; unrealized hopes of a day at Belmont
Park; school tunics and teddy blouses; singing “Bonhomme bonhomme
sois-tu jouer”; trips to exotic Plattsburgh to stock up on new clothes
smuggled back across the border; the very true-to-life prejudiced
attitudes towards “French Canadians” recited by Anglo parents to
children; and that other culture that was a backdrop to growing up and
yet so much a part of our world. What shines through these stories is
Laing’s fondness for the landscape and population of her childhood,
and the richness she found in life then.


Laing, Bonnie., “Marble Season,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,