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Two Solitudes

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,552 ratings  ·  122 reviews
First time in the New Canadian Library

“Northwest of Montreal, through a valley always in sight of the low mountains of the Laurentian Shield, the Ottawa River flows out of Protestant Ontario into Catholic Quebec. It comes down broad and ale-coloured and joins the Saint Lawrence, the two streams embrace the pan of Montreal Island, the Ottawa merges and loses itself, and the
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Unbound, 496 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by New Canadian Library (first published January 1st 1945)
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Johnathan Fitch My public library way down in the US had it. But the librarian had to go get it out of storage for me.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stela
Oct 28, 2014 Stela rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Carmen Irimia
Shelves: neo-realism, reviews

My ineffable Quebec, my love

Quebec is a magic place. You see it and you are besotted. You live in it and you become addicted. Almost imperceptibly you think of it not only as your home but also as your wonderland.

I often wander Montreal’s streets, never tiring to marvel at the people and places’ diversity. Nowhere else in the world the word “cosmopolite” makes more sense than here, furthermore, I almost believe this was the place that originated it, with its incessant scrolling of people from a
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Keith
Hugh MacLennan’s Two Solitudes is an undisputed “classic” of modern Canadian Literature. It is undoubtedly for that reason that I had never read it. Unfortunately it was not on the syllabus of the one Canadian Literature course I took at university. I now wish it had been. Although it was published sixty-seven years ago, it is fresh and provocative. Indeed, I found it to be mostly a deeply thoughtful and extremely well written novel.

Before I read it I considered the “two solitudes” of the book
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Pooker
I finished reading this book this morning, January 23, 2012. I started on January 14th. Nine days to read it? I'm shocked. I thought I breezed through it. I know I read a little bit every day and looked forward to doing so. There was never a point where I was bored or tempted to skim. That was also surprising since this is a re-read for me. It is rare that I will read a book a second time. But I made an exception for this book because it is one of this year's Canada Reads finalists and it has be ...more
Don
Mar 11, 2015 Don rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: canada
Nominally a multi-generational epic about French-Canadians and English-Canadians and the multitude of their differences, this also seemed to me to be about existential individualism and free will. Begins with a conscription, ends with a voluntary enlistment. The four parts of the book seem to even correspond to Sartre's Being and Nothingness (which came out 2 years earlier). An essay there some day. Faced with conscription, cultural "strait-jackets", naval discipline, religious authority, etc., ...more
Adam
I thought I'd have more to write about this book's themes and characters &c., but then I read the afterword, by Robert Kroetsch, to this edition, and realized that Kroetsch pretty much says it all in a wonderful short essay.

So on I go to the evaluative stuff: Two Solitudes is supposed to be one of the Important Canadian Novels. You'll hear it namedropped on the CBC. Gord Downie might mention it in one of his live, improvised mid-song rants. Academics concerned with Canadian Identity will pr
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Donna
I meant to review this right after I finished it & had all these profound thoughts, but I didn't & now I can't remember any of them. But, I do know that I really liked it. The opening & closing paragraphs, which described the majesty of our country's natural beauty, and how our rivers & mountains carved and disrupted and formed our landscapes also carved, disrupted, and formed our people.

The divide between the French & English goes back to our founding, as every Canadian kno
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Jennifer D
what a dense, wonderful important novel. this was a re-read for me but i had lost so many details over the years it was like a new experience, this time through. following the strands of story arcs concerning 'two solitudes', through this novel, was amazing. maclennan wrote about so many important issues and brought heart and humanity to the telling. certainly a canadian classic and a book that should continue to resonate for generations to come.
Shirley Schwartz
This book written by the marvellous Hugh MacLennan and was originally released in 1945. It’s a novel that has been on my “to read” list for a long time and it is a “must-read” classic for all Canadians. The novel revolves around the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec from just before the beginning of World War I and ends just as World War II begins in 1939. There are so many layers and so many intricacies in this book and it is defined by two solitudes as the title suggests. The two sol ...more
Sian Morgan
an important book for all Canadians
Shilpa
“Some novels are a version of memory. Two Solitudes is just such a novel, and in it a number of characters confront the idea of shared or cultural memory and the consequences of that sharing.”

This afterword encapsulates the complexity and richness of Hugh MacLennan’s brilliant Canada Reads novel. The title reflects a number of themes that are portrayed throughout the book – the racial divide of a country, religion, friends and even two star-crossed lovers.

"If there had been the slightest suggest
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Palmreader
I read this many years ago and loved it. Its highly sentimental, if I remember correctly. There is one thing I vividly remember, one of the characters' father is dying, and its said that even though he renounced his Catholicism many years before, he will still die with "the candles in his hands". This had a personal resonance having a parent who was born a catholic but left her Catholicism and became an active faithful protestant. It resonated enough for me to ask if that was what we could expec ...more
Stacy
I read this again because I want to know about some of the books in Canada Reads this season. I didn't really like any of the characters and I found the Solitudes to be stereotyped for the 21st century.
A lot of the description is of physical characteristics of individuals, which I found really boring. The descriptions of Montreal and other parts of Quebec and Canada as a whole seemed to be there, not to provide beauty, but to point out how much the author knew. The exception was when he describe
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Erika
This book would get 2.5 stars if I could. I can understand that it is an important read for Canadians because it describes the lives of the "maudits anglais" and "bloody french" in and around Montreal between 1917 and 1939. This was a time of great change for Canada and the people living in this interface area. If Canada Reads was only for learning more about Canada, this would be my pick but as it is for the best book, this one falls into third place. My order for Canada Reads is: Indian Horse, ...more
Carole
The star character in "Two Solitudes" is definitely Canadian geography. Hugh Maclennan's description of places in Canada, particularly Montreal and the villages of the Laurentians is remarkably vivid and was a highlight of the book for me.

When I first started reading this novel, I found that the story of the two solitudes of the French and the English in Canada was somewhat dated. However, as the story wore on ( and it was rather wearing for a while), it definitely improved and became really ve
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Karen
I enjoyed the many dichotomies in this story: English and French, war and peace, city and country, man and woman. It didn't leave me feeling changed or mind blown in any way, but it was an enjoyable read and I loved the author's ability to describe the landscape near the St. Lawrence so beautifully. It's like you could smell the fall leaves, feel the cold wind and bask in the spring sunshine. Transported through poetry!
Czarny Pies
Oct 19, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Archelogists wishing to excavate the bad old days.
Recommended to Czarny by: I read it in Grade 11. There was no French high school in my hometown at the time.
The recent decline in the Parti Quebecois vote is likely due to the fact that this book is fading into obscurity. As fewer and fewer young French Canadians are reading this book, a major reason for disliking the English is disappearing.

Hugh MacLennan was a smug dolt afflicted by a monumental case of self-admiration who in the Two Solitudes contented looks down on us with Olympian disdain throwing every cliche at us without any sense of discrimination. Forty-five years later, this book still make
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Josh
"Two Solitudes" is often called the Great Canadian novel and I tend to agree. For a two main reasons: one, I think that despite it being anchored in the time of its written it remains relevent and poigant and two, it is one of the few novels with both something to say and the audacity to be entertaining and story-driven as well. Quite long and complex but worth the read.
B
Two Solitudes is a light story that conveys nonetheless a multitude of complex issues. As Robert Kroetsch says in the afterword, the two solitudes are between French and English Canadians, between the rural and the urban, and between men and women. Each is different from the other yet needs him to complete his essence.

The tension between the French and the English is explained to be caused by their unfamiliarity with each other. Marius, for instance, despises the English yet he doesn’t know any
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Lauren Simmons
The ultimate slow burn, I didn't really like this book until the second half and didn't love it till the last 100 pages. As someone born in Quebec, raised in Ontario, but lived my university years in Montreal, this book was very meaningful to me, and the characters in the second half quite compelling.
Diane
I re-read it for Canada Reads this year. It's a good 'contestant' because every Canadian should read it, and once again I found it to be an amazing accomplishment.
Sheri-lee
I love that there are 'two solitudes' on many levels in this book. It was pretty great to read this while travelling in Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. And it's also very interesting to find through conversations and observations how pervasive these solitudes remain: between French and English, village and city, men and women. I actually had a Montreal-er paraphrase how the French Canadians today are still often cornered in lower paying jobs because they insist on the polarity between French a ...more
Isabelle Skoog
A wonderful perspective into the dichotomy of identities in Quebec, which represents Canada's past and present. While this is a work of fiction, the novel still clearly dissects the strain of Canadian culture (or lack thereof). I found myself initially trying to pick who to pity, between the French Canadians and English Canadians, but MacLennan does an excellent job of keeping the reader neutral. I loved the book to pieces and would recommend it to anyone who wants to educate themselves on Canad ...more
Natasha Whyte
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick

Review

Two Solitudes is the story of lives -- that of Athanase Tallard, a traditional French-Canadian Aristocrat and his family, that of Nova Scotian import Captain Yardley and his family, that of the Montreal English elite, through Huntly McQueen and others, and that of various other French and English Canadians. It is also the story of Canada around the time of the two World Wars, from a Quebec/Nova Scotian perspective. It is an epic book, on the scale of European classics, and is filled with d
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Faith
Jan 11, 2009 Faith rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2005
Well, I got this book from our Canadian friend, who wanted me to read something Canadian. So off course I had to read it to be able to tell him I read it and maybe have some not too stupid comment which indicates I liked the book...

Cos I did definitely not love the book. It took at least 100 pages to get what the book really was about and who the characters actually were, and what was the point with them. That is, it took that long to get into the book (of 412 pages). But now having read the wh
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Joshua Bertram
What is most surprising about the experience of reading Hugh MacLennan's Can-lit classic, Two Solitudes, seventy years after its publication is just how contemporary the themes feel. Not so much the religious tension between the Catholic Quebecois and the rest of English Canada, but the cultural and political tensions. One can even see these tensions manifest along regional lines, as "the West" is considered cut off from and often forgotten by Central Canada. Indeed, the themes inherent in Two S ...more
Michael Lauro
*****Spoiler Alert******

Now this is a book.
The story of the Tallard family, the story of the Quebec tug of war between its two founding peoples. The story of French vs English, of man and woman, of rich and poor and, even, of rural vs urban.
Set in one of my favourite cities, it brings to life, to me, two key characters--the two characters that I fell in love with--- Paul Tallard and his eventual wife
Heather Methuen.

I couldn't help but fall in love with them both, and chapter upon chapter I want
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Julie
For the most part, it was an enjoyable read, a book that wasn't my favourite, but still worth reading.

There were times I felt the book moved slowly and felt that some of these parts were a bit stretched out. Not a lot happens in the book, but it does do an excellent job at examining its characters, and while I enjoyed this aspect of the book, some parts were very slow to move through. I also found a lot of the characters hard to like, well written, and they did have a good development throughou
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Lianne Burwell
In my goal of reading all of the books in this year's Canada Reads (CBC radio), Two Solitudes is the fourth I've read. It was also the second place book on the show, losing to February, by Lisa Moore (which is still my least favorite of the books).

Two Solitudes is about Quebec, and the divide between French and English Canada in the days between the first world war (when Quebec was in an uproar over the government imposing the draft) and the start of the second world war.

We start with Athanase T
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Pauline Macura Brown
I loved this book. Written in 1945 it still seems very relevant today. The division/difference between city and country, French and English, peace and war, liberals and conservative, Protestants and Catholics and jews, Toronto and Montreal, the US and Canada are all touched on in this book. These divisions still exist in Canada today. Somehow the story finds a way to navigate within the divisions in a way that gave me some better understanding of Canada and perhaps some acceptance regarding who ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Two Solitudes by Hugh Maclennan 2 5 May 27, 2015 02:40PM  
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119840
John Hugh MacLennan was born to Dr.Samuel MacLennan, a physician, and Katherine MacQuarrie in Glace Bay; he had an older sister named Frances. His father was a stern Calvinist; his mother, creative, warm and dreamy. Hugh inherited traits from both. In 1913 they went to London where Samuel took courses for a medical specialty. When they returned to Canada, they settled briefly in Sydney, before mov ...more
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“Marx is only half right when he calls religion the opium of the people. It may turn a lot of people into sheep, but it turns far too many of them into tigers.” 1 likes
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