A Seasonal Romance: Louis Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine


79 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55022-111-6
DDC C843'.912





Reviewed by Michael Benazon

Michael Benazon teaches English at Champlain College in Quebec.


In her competent survey of the history of Louis Hémon’s Maria
Chapdelaine, the author touches on the series of misadventures that have
affected its reception in Canada and France. Editors in France,
unfamiliar with Canada, tampered with the wording, and it wasn’t until
1980 that the original text saw the light of day. In the meantime, the
book was twice translated into English, first by Andrew Macphail and
later, more euphoniously, by W.H. Blake. The novel was then subjected to
a political criticism at variance with the nonintrusive style of the
author. For a number of these early commentators, the novel seemed to
reinforce the Catholic and nationalistic ideology they sought to
promote. Later critics, offended by such self-serving interpretations,
have denounced Maria Chapdelaine as a colonialist tract, designed to
keep French Canadians in their place. With the latter view in the
ascendancy, it is small wonder that the novel has been banished to the
library shelves.

Demers sets out to rescue Maria Chapdelaine from such opprobrium. She
suggests that a few of the motifs in the novel lie deep within Hémon
himself and can be found adumbrated in his earlier London work. She
observes that Hémon’s descriptions are firmly based on people he knew
well and places he had visited, and that Hémon succeeded in writing a
subtle and equivocal work of literature without any tendentious

This work—which, like others in ECW’s Canadian Fiction Studies
series, provides a biographical chronology, a summary of the initial
critical reception, a bibliography, and an index—is written in a clear
and accessible style. The bulk of Demers’s monograph consists of a
thoughtful reading of Hémon’s text. My only quibble is that she does
not sufficiently emphasize the subtle irony that underlies his


Demers, Patricia., “A Seasonal Romance: Louis Hémon's Maria Chapdelaine,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6570.