Showing posts from December, 2010

Gabrielle Roy's The Tin Flute

Many firsts in my life have happened in Montreal; I've loved the city ever since my first visit when I was sixteen. So I was pre-disposed to like The Tin Flute, a novel set in its impoverished St. Henri neighbourhood in 1940, after Canada entered World War II but before the conscription crisis. The Tin Flute tells of the tribulations of the Lacasse family--nineteen-year-old Florentine, her mother Rose-Anna, father Azarius, and several younger siblings. Will Azarius find work? Will Rose-Anna survive another pregnancy and another annual move to desperate digs? Will Florentine meet a nice young man like Jean Levesque or Emmanuel Letourneau at her job at the lunch counter at the Five and Ten?

The tin flute of the English title is a toy, a symbol of inexpensive yet still out of reach fleeting joy the mother contemplates purchasing for a dying child. The English translation of the original title Bonheur d'Occasion would be something more like Hand-me-down Happiness or even Damaged Go…