Lady with Chains
Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
Quebec novelist and playwright Roch Carrier’s new novel, Lady with Chains, is a breathtaking experience. Set in the pioneer days of the author’s native Quebec, the remarkable story becomes a tale within a tale.
Two “Ladies” are placed in actual chains as well as metaphorical ones. Virginie, an innocent young girl, the heroine of the “actual” tale, is tormented beyond reason following the death of her child, in a blinding snowstorm, in the backwoods of early nineteenth or late eighteenth century Quebec. She is determined to avenge the child’s death by murdering her young husband who, almost delirious with exhaustion, had absent-mindedly “forgotten” their infant in the snow. Virginie’s anguish parallels that of a lady in chains about whom she had heard in a story as a young child in her parents’ home.
Carrier masterfully weaves the two stories together and achieves a classic simplicity of style while maintaining great depth of emotion and vivid suspense at all times. Carrier’s novel also throbs with an underlying current of feminism on the part of the Ladies, juxtaposed with the primitive male chauvinism of the times. Virginie and the Lady are far from being helpless, shrinking violets despite their constant inner turmoil. They both take command of their destinies and bravely face the consequences.
Sheila Fischman’s translation from the French is brilliant. She captures the very soul of Carrier’s magnificent prose. Every nuance and subtlety of the original is preserved. Lady in Chains is a fine, co-operative work of art in which self-control alone prevents the reader from peeking at the explosive conclusion. This novel is what great literature is all about. It should not be missed!