So I want to say upfront that I read this book mostly because somehow it ended up on my gay reads book list? And uh not to spoil anything, but I did not read any relationships that could be construed as gay, I don't think, unless you're counting the fact that Langston Hughes appears as like a Very Background Character? So if you, like me, had it up on one of those types of lists, uh... not that I could see.
That being said, this is one of those cases where I really really felt like knowing more about Canada in general and Quebec/Montreal in particular would have been helpful? I feel like I've read a lot of reviews where people are like "this is a gross misrepresentation of Black life in Montreal!" and I couldn't tell you if that was true or not. In a lot of ways, it feels like a book that is much older than it is--it was published in 1997, but there's some Baldwin-like aesthetic that Sarsfield really hits on, or maybe the like old melodramas (I'm thinking specifically of Imitation of Life, I think?) I literally flipped to the front matter to see when this book was published like 8 times over the course of reading the book.
But overall, I would say it wasn't a bad book--if that melodrama aesthetic was what Sarsfield was aiming for, I'd say she hit it out of the park in a major way! And if that kind of aesthetic is your thing, you probably really should check out this book! For the rest of us I'd say reading it is not the most necessary thing in the world, but it's not terrible either!
Evokes the atmosphere of pre-WW II Montreal and gives us an inside view of what is what like to be Black in that City at that time. The characters are proud, resilient and lovable.
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