Judiciously set in the Quebec backcountry, among the villages, the ranges, the rhythms of childhood—the authentic kingdom where the Queen’s House sits in the heart of the land—, Alexandre Mc Cabe’s novel assembles the museum of one grandchild’s memory. A young man in his early twenties is forced to accept that “A death is a death and we cannot escape its tragedy.” Confronted with the passing of his grandfather Jérémie, his grief pushes him to focus “on other details.” He paints “the paintings of an inner museum,” reflects on the “fundamental inheritance” he has received from family and culture, grasps the vital role played by scenery in our learning of the world. This kind-hearted book contains the memories of a child’s first times, of the happiness and love he received.
Mc Cabe writes a folk epic—“… in which time seems to stand still and only show its effects in the ageing of bodies, the birth of children, and the cyclical changing of seasons”—bringing back defining moments in Quebec’s political history, from the 1980s to the present day.
For his first novel, Chez la Reine, Alexandre Mc Cabe offers us a delightful incursion into Quebec’s Lanaudière region. … A joyous text, full of humour, in which the family and the character of the grandfather play a central role.
Through the memories of walks in the woods, of political arguments around the table, and of family reunions at the house of an aunt married to Sainte-Béatrix’s “Rug King,” it is “our culture’s fundamental heritage” that is faithfully celebrated here. And through the sincerity that emerges from every sentence of this well-mastered first novel, an authentic writer is shown to us.
Martine Desjardins, L'actualité
Chez la Reine isn’t a politically committed work, but rather a work that spells out political commitment. The writer stands on the opposite side of demagoguery and Manichean discourse. Here, there are no good or bad guys, no reds or blues, only a grandfather about to leave this world and a grandson discovering bit by bit how to enter it. There is also all that binds and separates the two characters, the language, the rituals, the folklore, or the faith.
Death, transmission, future. … Here’s the underlying focus of this novel, which stands out not only for its alertness, but also for its sensitivity. As well as for the elegance of its style, its whirling sentences.
Rentrer Chez La Reine a été comme rentrer chez moi. Enfin, dans une partie de mes souvenirs pleine de rayons de soleil nostalgiques. Ces oncles, ces tantes, ces soirées et ces histoires auraient pu être les miens tant je m’y suis reconnu.
Here’s a novel that does us good, that provides hope during these gloomy times—this end of an election campaign, which highlights all of our fears and estrangements. It’s invigorating to read a novel like this one. Here’s something to make us forget the cynicism that suffocates us more and more.
While narrating the story of his grandfather, a man who worked hard all his life, Alexandre Mc Cabe takes us back to our identity and pride in being who we are, as individuals and as a people. This story is touching, as it is the story of our forefathers, and it derives its strength from the very personal reading every reader will make of it.
Yesterday Alexandre Mc Cabe was on the Radio-Canada Première radio show Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! to discuss with host Marie-Louise Arsenault his novel Chez la Reine. Listen to him confess his romanticism, express his admiration for Gaston Miron, and reveal the Queen’s identity.