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Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  99 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Winner of the 2000 Quebec Writers' Federation First Book Award and the Mavis Gallant Prize for Nonfiction

A hip, enlightening portrait of a place most Canadians find baffling: Quebec without the politics.

Why do three million Quebecers tune in the same absurd sitcom every week? How did they get the nickname "pepsis"? Why does Celine Dion put on a down-home accent when she r
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Paperback, 328 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Macfarlane Walter & Ross (first published 2000)
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Emeline
Sep 09, 2013 Emeline rated it liked it
I have read some of Grescoe's previous works, which is what drove me to this book, along with the fact that I was curious to see my native province through a stranger's eyes. The bottom line is: I'd like to see an updated version of this. You get the feel that the author isn't quite sure of his style yet, there are a lot of repetitions, and we switch from general facts to personal opinion very swiftly.
This book reads like a newcomer's enthusiastic first weeks, everything is new and shiny, Quebec
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kate
Feb 16, 2010 kate added it
I am sentimental and this is a pretty good book. I dated an almost militant separatist and the day we spent 1.5 hours (or it felt like it) wandering all over a grocery store in my province because he insisted there was absolutely no way a grocery store would not carry actual cheese curds for poutine, despite my entreaties that, actually, I had no idea what he was talking about, had never seen them and thought they only existed in nursery rhymes accompanied by whey - convinced me of the two solit ...more
Rosamund
Dec 28, 2013 Rosamund rated it liked it
First off, the info in this is not exactly fresh... it's from 2000. I found some chapters kind of boring, but I really enjoyed the chapters about Quebec's culture straddled between North America and Europe, language, First Nations, and winter. It was kind of Montreal-centric, you have to keep that in mind for most of the assumptions and observations the author makes. For example, I lived in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region where the question of English is not a question at all, but in huge diverse M ...more
Ruth
Aug 05, 2007 Ruth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like travelogues and or Canada
Shelves: canada
What a fun trip through Quebec! The author is an outsider (British Columbian, anglo, of eatern european heritage) but a sympathetic one. He sends up a LOT of Quebecois sacred cows (did you know that 40% of french-speaking Quebecois are of Irish descent?) and examines the peculiar Quebec style of vulgarity at hilarious length (bodily functions= ok, words relating to the church=naughty naughty!). In the end, this book is both critical and affectuonate---I think the strongest chapters are where he ...more
Rose Gowen
Jul 09, 2016 Rose Gowen rated it liked it
I moved to Montreal four years ago, and one of the great pleasures of being here is involving myself in a long-term, casual research project: what is this place all about? what's its story?

So, I picked up this book when I saw it at the thrift store. The author happens to live down the street from me.

I don't think it's unfair to call it uneven-- at times, it strains to be funny; it can be cynical; and oddly mean (like, for most of that long chapter on Quebecois television, I thought the author w
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Anna
Jun 20, 2011 Anna rated it it was ok
A bit disappointing (I just loved his book about fish, Bottomfeeder). I think the intention is to point out the contradictions in Quebec society but I found it a bit negative. Apparently Grescoe loves Quebec. Yet, it seems like the people are racist (against indigenous people), illiterate, irreligious, pretending they aren't cold for six months of the year (?), make bad television, have odd newspapers, eat poutine (gross), and have a love-hate relationship with France (actually that part was rea ...more
Will Slade
Feb 07, 2011 Will Slade rated it liked it
Good read.

Kind of depressing though. I've entertained a small fantasy of living in Quebec for a couple years, but after reading this I don't think I ever will. It's too different. It's a deliberately non-literate society, with a higher tax burden, more confused and racist identity, and higher teen pregnancy. It's got it's appealing qualities, but it's more than just the language issue. I'd be a permanent outsider in a culture I don't find appealing. So I guess I'll be a tourist there, which is f
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Jennifer
Aug 05, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it
The chapters on media are, in 2012, a bit dated. Other than that, though, I found the tale he told about Quebec past and present to be quite engaging. As a new Canadian, I think learning a few of the theories about how and why Quebec is the way it is belongs to my Canadian education. In particular, the chapter on language was illuminating. The reason my daughter is learning French French, instead of Quebec French is because there is no real standard for vocabulary and pronunciation in Québécois ...more
Jamie
Apr 10, 2012 Jamie rated it really liked it
I learned more about the history of Québec through this book than I have by living here for most of my lifetime. I would have given the book 5 stars had it not been for that ambiguous last chapter; last sentence to be more precise: 'After three years of getting to know one of the most liveable, civilized, and intriguing parts of North America, I can assure Quebecers of one thing: they don't know how much they have to lose.'
Marney
Sep 30, 2012 Marney rated it really liked it
I learned some things. I disagreed with some things. A surprising readable book concerning Quebec society. Printed 12 years ago so a little dated The rest of Canada has their own myths about Duplessis, Hydro Quebec, Caisse Pops, QPP, poutine and, of course, language laws and the PQs. It is interesting to get a glimpse of the story from the Quebec viewpoint.It has some good laughs too. It ends with a interesting definition of Canada and on a positive note. Worth the read.
Teghan
Oct 18, 2010 Teghan rated it it was amazing
I read this several years ago in my undergrad, but it was a really enjoyable and illuminating read. I'm a huge fan of the travel memoir, especially if they take place within Canada.

Its an honest and amusing reflection of Canada's most unique province.

And like with anything dealing with Quebec, its full of debatable positions.
Hannah
Apr 24, 2013 Hannah rated it liked it
I think I'd have liked this book better if I were Canadian and understood more of the references. Still, this book gave me some insight into the history and complex cultural identity of French Canada. After reading this book in preparation for a trip to Montreal, I had a better sense of what it means to be Quebecois.
Alexis
Sep 06, 2008 Alexis rated it liked it
I was expecting more of a travel-log, based on Grescoe's later books. This is really a look at the culture of Quebec. It was fascinating, and interesting. I wish that I'd read it before I moved to Quebec. I did find myself nodding a few times while reading it. I didn't enjoy it as much as his more recent books, but it was still interesting to trace his development as a writer.
Alejandro Ramirez
Sep 13, 2016 Alejandro Ramirez rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
odo lo que usted quería saber sobre Quebec. Me produjo sentimientos encontrados, ilustra una sociedad cerrada, elitista, ensimismada en sí misma. a la vez, una sociedad más humana e interesante. Desde cualquier angulo, el separatismo es una politica de odio, intolerancia, racismo y estupidez.
Aaron M
Sep 12, 2013 Aaron M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grescoe effectively captures the spirit and culture of Quebec in highly readable, engaging prose, highlighting what's great (solidarity, culture, liberal social mores) and what's not-so-great about the province (parochialism, political corruption, xenophobia). Highly recommended.
JulieK
Jul 10, 2014 JulieK rated it really liked it
Shelves: places
More a study of Quebec's character than a travelogue, but still a good (albeit dated) read in preparation for my first visit.
Autumn
Oct 10, 2011 Autumn rated it liked it
Highly readable cultural history of Quebec. I wish I had read it before attending University there. It reveals lot about Quebecois culture this American anglophone has (sadly) never heard of.
Shelagh Plunkett
Jun 27, 2013 Shelagh Plunkett rated it liked it
As a new resident of Quebec I found this interesting and somewhat entertaining. I read it and Richler's Oh Canada, Oh Quebec at the same time which meant my experience was a bit point/counterpoint.
Mel
Nov 08, 2011 Mel rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, nonfiction
Chapters can be read separately as a collection of essays, and some essays were worth more than two stars. Overall, though, I found the book much tougher to get through than I thought it would be.
Lee
Apr 10, 2012 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: later, unfinished
Read it at my friend's cafe, had to leave it unfinished. It's quite hilarious, definitely gonna finish it as soon as I can get the book in my hand. :D
Jodi B.
Jodi B. rated it did not like it
Sep 28, 2008
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Nov 23, 2014
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Mar 14, 2010
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Taras Grescoe was born in 1967. He writes essays, articles, and books. He is something of a non-fiction specialist.

His first book was Sacré Blues, a portrait of contemporary Quebec that won Canada's Edna Staebler Award for Non-Fiction, two Quebec Writers' Federation Awards, a National Magazine Award (for an excerpted chapter), and was short-listed for the Writers' Trust Award. It was published in
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