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Brief Reviews
by Roger Burford Mason

IT WOULD DEPENDON your point of view, but a lot ofpeople might say that there have been better times in this country`s history topublish a novel about how hard-done-by the Anglos are in Quebec. In his pacey new novel, Calypso Warrior (Robert Davies, 224pages, $18.99 paper), Ken McGoogan combines those old stand-bys, sex andpolitics, with some caustic reflections on the anglophone-francophonedebate that will not sit well with pequistes. Alternating chapters set in the separatist present withchapters set in the past, McGoogan lets us in on the formative years and thepresent life of David Nelligan, the co-owner, with his black West Indianfriend Tolbert, of a bookshop that is firebombed by Quebec nationalists. Nelligan knows what Quebec nationalism is all about,having grown up in smalltown Quebec constantly on the look-out for anti-anglophoneviolence, either linguistic or physical, and never being allowed to forget hisstatus as a member of a hated minority. These experiences, however, don`t stophim from marrying one francophone and having an affair with another, both ofwhom turn bitter and vengeful; and it is these tangled emotional tentacles thatreach into Nelligan`s troubled present, complicating and saddening his life,but providing good material for a novel that ties up all the loose ends andpays off some angry debts. McGoogan knows his Quebec society, and uses thisknowledge to create believable sociological and psychological contexts againstwhich the novel`s action is set. Unfortunately, his writing does not alwayscontain the fire that ought to animate his protagonists as they struggle witheach other and with their conflicting views of past, present, and future. Toooften, McGoogan simply declares that which should be illuminated with image andallusion, and his dialogue is hobbled by the freight of ideas, resentments, andrevenge that he makes it carry.

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