Translated by Ann Marie Boulanger

It’s a summer of crushing heat and unsolved crimes. From east to west, over a mind-boggling ten million square kilometres of terrain — dotted with countless lakes, a fistful of murderers, and masses of dense, dry scrub — people have shuttered their windows, drawn dusty curtains, locked doors, and installed powerful air conditioners which, somewhat ironically, are cooling down their concerns while ratcheting up the temperature outside.

On the morning of July 26, the mercury in Split Landing already reads 34 degrees Celsius in the shade of the tall conifer trees, and the headline in the national newspaper, hurled at dawn onto front porches by an already sweating Gerry Gaston, blares “Two teens, suspected of murdering florist and pair of Dutch tourists, vanish without a trace.” Under the photo of the baby-faced boys, a second, less attention-grabbing piece reports that this July is shaping up to be the hottest month ever recorded on the planet. …

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Promised to a lifetime of pain, between the suicide tour and her passing in October 1963, Édith Piaf gave the Paris paparazzi and the tabloid press so much to run with it seemed it would never end. Her glory at the Olympia in early 1961 proved fleeting. She’d undergone another operation or two, but never hinted that she might be stepping out of the limelight. Her haggard face as she left the American Hospital in Paris earned Thiago enough to keep both his car and his family going for a good while.

I didn’t need Yvette Renard to tell me Thiago was cheating on me. I didn’t even mind. I think he’d always realized I derived no pleasure from being with him, and so by the time I was no longer pregnant I already suspected he was looking for other women to confirm his talents as a lover. He’d come home smelling of perfume, smeared in makeup… He wasn’t especially good at it. But, as I said, I didn’t mind, and indeed I found myself relieved of a duty that bored me to tears. Every time he told me he was in hot pursuit of a dying Piaf or a drunk Bardot, I knew he’d be off having a good time in someone else’s arms. But, to be completely frank, I was more jealous of Édith Piaf and the other starlets than the bunch of unknowns I assumed his body simply needed to keep going, much like a visit to the dentist or a pedicure. I’d probably have been angry if sex with Thiago had meant anything at all to me. But I didn’t know. I didn’t think about things like that. It was a different time in my life. He, on the other hand, easily managed to excuse his infidelities. We weren’t yet married, after all, and if our relationship was modeled on Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s, then surely “contingent” love affairs were to be expected. It wasn’t Thiago who brought up contingent love affairs, of course. It was me. He’d never read de Beauvoir, he wasn’t interested. Truth be told, we’d never much discussed love and contingency. And I still think that even though he would hit me when we argued, he still loved me. But I didn’t love him. I loved the freedom he’d given me by tearing me away from Três Tucanos. …

by Jean-François Caron

translated by W. Donald Wilson

Talonbooks, 2015

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In The Keeper’s Daughter, like in many works of fiction, names carry weight. They offer insight into characters, hint at the histories of places, and sometimes even reference other literary works. But in Jean-François Caron’s novel, the changing of names is just as significant as the names themselves. Throughout the story, names are invented, substituted, forgotten, and omitted; none can be fully believed or trusted. As the story unfolds, the reader is left to struggle with the uncertainty of identity and the unreliability of memory:

“As soon as she sees me, she calls me Dorothée. […] It’s no use telling her I was born in Port-au-Prince, or that since I turned two the sky of Quebec is the only one I’ve laid eyes on, or that Dorothée is not my name at all: she doesn’t hear anything. Rose Brouillard hears only herself.” …

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