Friday, August 31, 2018

12th Canadian Challenge - 4th Review - Sun of a Distant Land

This novel, Sun of a Distant Land by David Bouchet, focuses on a family from Senegal recently immigrated to Montreal.  The events are viewed from the perspective of the middle child, Souleymane.  He goes by Souleye, though his new friend, Charlotte, calls him "Soleil" (Sun).  It's worth noting that much of the word play in the novel (and there is a fair bit of it) can only be partially translated, especially as a lot of it has to do with how French is spoken in Senegal, so this is doubly removed for most English-speakers.  I suspect that the novel does work better in French than in English, though the translation by Claire Rothman seems competent. 

There were only a few things that really stood out for me (from the mass of Canadian immigrant literature).  The father, who was a bit of a restless soul (always thinking he was taking jobs beneath him -- shades of Ginger Coffey) and was the main reason the family uprooted and moved to Canada, does not adjust particularly well.  He has given up on his job search and has a bit of a mental breakdown as the novel kicks off.  It is his wife who lands a job and is doing a better job of fitting into her new environs.  Souleye doesn't make many friends (unlike his older brother who is more sporty) but he does get close to Charlotte, a girl from the neighbourhood who has even more problems than he does.  Her mother is an addict who cannot take care of herself, let alone her daughter.  It's a sad situation, but Souleye doesn't really know how to offer up support.  The novel ended in a surprisingly open-ended way, which might be frustrating to readers, particularly those hoping for an unambiguously happy ending.  I think I'll just end on that note, rather than spoiling the plot.

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