Three by Three:
Short Stories

by Anne Dandurand, Claire De, Helene Rioux, Luise Von Flotow, Luise Von Flotow,
122 pages,
ISBN: 0920717691

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Becky Liddell

FOR MANY READERS outside Quebec, feminist writing in French is likely associated with the challenging, non-linear work of authors such as Nicole Brossard. Now, thanks to Three by Three (Guernica, 109 pages, $12 paper), translated by Luise von Flotow, the English-speaking audience can sample recent fiction in a different vein by a trio of Quebecoise writers. Anne Dandurand, Claire De, and Helene Rioux each chip in three stories; and if their work is any indication of feminist literary trends in la belle province, the action plot is making a comeback, and the combination of sex and violence is a major preoccupation.

Dandurand and De write with dramatic (verging on melodramatic) intensity, dash, and a sense of humour that's sly and a bit twisted. In Dandurand's "The Theft of Jacques Braise," a woman uses witchcraft to steal the soul of a younger man who has spurned her. In De's "Kill," a woman enraged by her husband's infidelity goes on a rampage in which she murders everyone except him. It's gripping stuff, and delivered with a blackly comic touch, as when the narrator brains one of her victims with a wine bottle and comments, "Another one dead from drink." But De can be subtle, too; in "Once Upon a Time," the protagonist imagines various passionate scenes with her lover, whose affection she's no longer sure of - as her doubt increases, so too does his detachment in her fantasies. Rioux's work is sketchier and more schematic than that of her co-contributors; an exception is the atmospheric "Thirteen Chrysanthemum Avenue," in which a bored young girl in a nameless suburb hitches a ride "to the other side of the river, [where] lights are dancing."

Entertaining, provocative, and often disturbing, Three by Three is definitely worth a look.


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