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Métis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais



An epic historical snapshot, chronicling the great sixties in America, Métis Beach will be well received by readers who want to read a story that's real, taut, gripping, and willing to take you on an emotional roller coaster during an tumultuous period. 

The story circles around Roman Carr (a.k.a. Romain Carrier) who has a successful television series, In Gad We Trust, a scathing satire of the America's  relationship with God. For a man who fled his past in a Gaspé Peninsula village in 1962, Roman is doing quite well for himself. 

The story takes on a lot of issues - from feminism, inequality, and the social unrest that played out in the sixties. Growing up in Métis Beach, in northern Quebec, Roman was well aware of the cultural divide between classes and races; the "French" (francophones) generally worked in blue collar jobs as maids, maids, or gardeners, cooks and gardeners, for the "British" (anglophones).
"You didn't need a border to know you were moving to a foreign place. The hundred year old pines and spruce, the cedar rows, told you that much. Through them you could see verdant lawns decorated with massive rose bushes, and great summer homes all made of wood with tennis courts beside them. Lives of luxury, sports cars, and endless garden parties. Playing golf till sunset. In Métis Beach, tea time would end well before four 'o clock, whisky was poured freely, sometimes as early as noon. We watched them with envy..."

Roman doesn't envy their wealth; it is their freedom of which he's jealous. That arrogant, carefree freedom that gave them their air of entitlement. The freedom to act as they would, without consequences. These privileged Métis Beach summer residents barely noticed "the other" -- kids like Romain Carrier, unless they were with their fathers, repairing something or other in their homes. Perhaps they saw them as Dalits or untouchables. This was Roman's point of view. 

But then there was Gail Egan. The girl in short white shorts, far too short for the French village, tanned, and beautiful. How does the son of a carpenter and handyman get to hang around with a girl like Gail, from a privileged family, such a contrast from his own? As he reflects back on those times in Métis Beach, Roman wonders whether he ever really loved Gail. Like a soap opera playing out to the tune of Summer Of '69, Roman's love story doesn't play out well. He learns about status, class structure, and his place in society, when he is humiliated by Gail's dad, Robert Egan. Soap operas don't always have a happy ending and fate steps in to give Roman a one way ticket to flee to the United States. 

Métis Beach explores the idea of everyone's right for liberty. From a manichean perspective, there's the eternal question: can good overcome evil? The book is a reflection of Roman's life as he prepares to write his memoir.  It sheds light on family and friendship, and the inevitable choices one makes in life. Written with truth and frankness, it is a raw portrayal of an era where people were trying to make sense of the world around them that was in a state of flux, shedding the conservatism of the '50s before embarking on the hedonism that characterized the late '60s and '70s. We are living in a period now where our ideas of the status quo are challenged, profound issues challenge us, and serious consideration in terms of social and economic changes are under the  microscope of social media and being connected continuously. We can do much worse than use Claudine Bourbonnais' thoughtful and humane look at history through the prism of Métis Beach to help us think about our future.

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Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog: thinkblink.ca/blog, as well as a lifestyle blog: sukasastyle.com T: @SukasaStyle) 


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