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Bonheur d'occasion

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,258 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Dans le quartier montréalais de Saint-Henri, un peuple d'ouvriers et de petits employés canadiens-français est désespérement en quête de bonheur. Florentine croit avoir trouvé le sien dans l'amour ; Rose-Anna le cherche dans le bien-être de sa famille ; Azarius fuit dans le rêve ; Emmanuel s'enrole ; Jean entreprend son ascension sociale. Chacun, à sa manière, invente sa p ...more
464 pages
Published 1945 by Boréal
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Community Reviews

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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My mother tells us, her children, that when my younger brother was around six years old she was with him one time walking along a city sidewalk when my brother saw a nice toy being peddled by a street vendor. He must have wanted such a toy for a long time, as toys were a luxury in our poor household, that he calls her attention and says mother, that's a nice toy isn't it? My mother said yes, it is a nice toy. Then my brother adds, but we can't buy it because we don't have money? Yes, we can't, w ...more
Originally titled Bonheur d'occasion (trans. Second-hand Happiness), The Tin Flute is the vivid story of the working poor in Quebec during World War II. The story begins with the eldest daughter, Florentine, who works in the Five and Ten in order to help support her parents. She falls for a machinist, Jean, who agrees to date her merely to benefit himself. His friend, Emmanuel, in the meantime, falls for Florentine who has eyes only for Jean. As the Afterword (Philip Stratford) mentions, Florent ...more
Orla Hegarty
This book is an important fictionalized version of herstory that sadly reflects many of the same issues we have in society today.
Margaret Virany
May 06, 2014 Margaret Virany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gabrielle Roy has marvelous powers of description that make winter wind, snow, cold and choking city smoke descend and engulf the reader as well as her fictional characters. Just as invasive are her powers of discernment which take the reader right inside the thoughts and desperation of a family caught inside the slums of Montreal during the depression that preceded world war two. This is a Canadian classic, one of the finest books ever written. However, don't expect to lift your head from its l ...more
Dirck de Lint
Nov 08, 2012 Dirck de Lint rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I should rather pull a toe off than read this book again. It's no more than a catalogue of misery without redemption, and while it may be realistic, it's nothing I need to be told about in careful detail. I had feared that this was an artifact of translation, but apparently it can move people the same way in the original language; I finish with the perfect summation from this review:

Livre obligatoire à l'école. C'est supposément un classique mais j'ai trouvé ça atrocement plate.

Dec 09, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 19, 2008 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit
I very much enjoyed this peek into life in a Montreal neighbourhood in the 1940s. Well-drawn characters (particularly Florentine, her mother Rose-Anna, and the elusive Jean). A simple story, but complex layers of emotion and enough depth to make it an engrossing read. I'm very surprised that I've never
heard of this book before; it really should be on all of our high school English reading lists. I wavered about the rating, almost gave it a perfect 5, then settled for a more comfortable 4. Well w
May 07, 2016 Vanessa rated it really liked it
A long, sometimes dragging, but realistic and insightful portrait of life in working-class Saint-Henri (Montreal) in the 1940s. Read this book in the original Canadian French, not my native language, so it was enriching in terms of learning expressions, slang, etc., and also for deeper historical and cultural understanding. Roy is a great writer, able to set an entire scene in a sentence, and displaying deep psychological sensitivity. At times the book feels interminable - there's not much of a ...more
Mar 10, 2011 uh8myzen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the English version of this novel as part of a Canadian Literature class in University and fell in love with it. As a rule, my favorite works of fiction are character driven, and this novel has one of the most compassionate renderings of character I have ever read.

The novel deals with the struggles of the French working class in Montreal in the early years of Canada's involvement in World War II, and is set in the winter of 1940. It concentrates on Florentine Lacasse and her family as the
The Lacasse family is poor in a time of widespread poverty, just as WWII is ramping up, and Canada has entered the fray. This isn't really about the war, though- it's about living with the war in the background. Rose-Anna, the matriarch, is pregnant with her 15th child and, as spring is coming, needs to start looking for a new home (the annual move). Her husband is out of work AGAIN, because the short term job he had is "beneath him". Florentine, her oldest, is helping keep them afloat but deali ...more
Apr 06, 2013 Kari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in Montreal and "looking down" on St. Henri from my perch on the right side of the tracks made this a must read. The book is well written but it it so depressing. There is absolutely no hope for those caught in the cycle of poverty that pervades St. Henri circa WW2. I had trouble sleeping on those nights that I read it before bed. I just couldn't get over the frustration of watching people make poor decisions over and over. No faith, no future and no redemption in St. Henri.
Catherine Matte
Jul 30, 2016 Catherine Matte rated it liked it
Shelves: quebec
Gabrielle Roy réussit à bien rendre la misère de l'époque. Saint-Henri, la guerre, la dépression, la pauvreté sont bien dépeints. Le roman aurait été excellent, si ce n'eut été des personnages, qui ne sont pas aimables du tout. Florentine est bête comme tout, Jean est inintéressant et Emmanuel est ridicule. Rose-Anna est probablement le personnage le plus intéressant, mais elle n'a qu'une seule dimension: celle de la pauvre femme encrassée dans la misère.
Aug 26, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Heartbreaking and beautiful. There's a reason the classics are classics, and this one is no exception. It's a detailed portrait of a specific neighbourhood (Montreal's St-Henri) in a specific time period (WWII), but tells of universal truths of love, family, youth and ageing, and dealing with hardships of various types. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because the translation is a bit clumsy at times - I know it's very difficult to translate intensely descriptive passages, but it pull ...more
Jun 12, 2010 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a feeling this isn't the best translation of the book -- some passages, especially dialogue, sounded a bit awkward, perhaps too literally rendered. That said, Roy's characters are some of the most real and convincing I've read in a long time, which I think is especially rare in a social realist novel. A heart-breaking book. Obviously why it's a Canadian classic.
Perhaps I wasn't in the mood for a novel that many consider a classic of Canadian literature or perhaps I just wasn't particularly interested in the plot, but I didn't love Gabrielle Roy's The Tin Flute. Originally published in 1945, I found the story and style dated and rather difficult get into--I wasn't emotionally invested in the trials and tribulations of Florentine Lacasse, whose story is central to the tale of the family. While I can appreciate her dilemma, I found it difficult to relate ...more
May 25, 2015 Cucumber rated it really liked it
I was a bit unsure about the characters in the beginning but I kept reading because of the beautiful writing. I felt like I was right there in Montréal. (I got used to the Quebecois fairly quickly but having some background knowledge about the francophone population of Montréal helped.)
Everybody is more or less miserable in this story. Whose fault is it though? Who am I supposed to blame? The characters' flaws and decisions? Or the great depression, society, and the war? Could the characters hav
May 05, 2012 Michele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Relu Bonheur d'occasion que je n'avais pas vraiment aime lors d'une premiere lecture dans mon jeune temps! Trop miserabiliste a mon gout alors.
A la relecture, portrait assez juste de la misere de l'epoque. Un classique quebecois
Daniel Kukwa
I can understand why this was a groundbreaking Canadian novel in 1945; there are sections of the story that completely break my heart -- particularly the saga of sickly little Daniel. But I do find it to be a rather over-written novel, with passages of mental imagery that go on and on, and probably wouldn't survive the ruthlessness of a modern-day editor; certainly Mme Roy's "Children of My Heart" is a far more concise & fluid read. But it remains compelling throughout...and in the depths of ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Jeff rated it it was amazing
It's like reading Zola's Germinal ... but in a 20th century and North American style.
S.D. Johnson
Oct 21, 2012 S.D. Johnson rated it it was amazing
A devastating portrait of poverty in Québec during the second world war. I picked this book up after reading Sartre thinking it would be lighter but I had to grapple not only with the joual in the dialogue but Roy actually employed a much larger vocabulary than Sartre. And this novel was at least as depressing as Sartre! It is a great work though & apparently it inspired great social change in Québec, & I can see why. It is one of the saddest and yet unflinching portraits of poverty I ha ...more
Timothy Bazzett
Mar 02, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember how I ran across THE TIN FLUTE, but I'm certainly glad I did. Gabrielle Roy's 1945 novel represents the best of old-fashioned but literate story-telling. In writing about the slums of Montreal and the desperate struggles of one poverty-ridden hard-luck family in the early years of WWII, Roy was writing about a time and a place she knew well, and created what was to become a classic of Canadian literature. There is not much of the sentimental or chick-lit in Roy's story of the La ...more
This book was originally written by Roy in French, and I read a translation by Hannah Josephson. I learned of it at work one day; we had a substitute librarian who is from Canada, and she told me that this is her favorite book. She told me that the original French title translates to "Secondhand Happiness" which I feel would have been a more fitting name for the book.

It's about a family (Lacasse) at poverty level in Montreal at the beginning of World War II. The city has many destitute citizens,
Jul 26, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
While the book is incredibly slow it finally picks up in the last 50 or so pages. If you can make it that far, just finish it.

The characters I really didn't enjoy that much. The ones I did like weren't a focus all that much. However, it does a great job depicting the months before WW2 and how those effected depression really were in many want helped by war.
I thoroughly loved this book. Written originally in French by a Canadian, I read it in my French Literature in Translation Class. And, I thoroughly loved it. This is strange because I usually don't like the books for this class. It is a story about a tough, calculating young woman from the wrong side of the Toronto tracks at the beginning of WWII, who sets her cap for a young man she meets. During the telling of her story, there are good discussions of war and war rescuing people from a failing ...more
Ruby St-Fleur
Apr 11, 2015 Ruby St-Fleur rated it really liked it
Étant Montréalaise,jeter un coup d'oeil sur la vie québécoise d'antan fut plutôt intéressant. Malgré les descriptions,par moment,trop abondante, Gabrielle Roy a su garder mon intérêt. Sans aucun doute, Bonheur d'occasion est un roman qui restera avec moi. Marquant.
From my observations made at the time:

Go and read [this:]. It's a great book...and was totally deserving of the Governor-General's Award for Fiction. There was one part where I was about to cry it was so good, but as I was reading at my desk at the time I didn't want to look stupid. *whistles; rolls eyes* And when I was reading it there were some moments where I did an English-class-overanalysis-personality-shift thing and started looking at the events as symbolic. Basically this means when I re
Michele Jansen
Jul 10, 2015 Michele Jansen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly a feel good romp, but so compelling. So descriptive. I could see the dirty hovel the family lived in. I could feel the pain and anxiety of poverty. There's compassion for these poor souls who have a lot of bad luck, mostly of their own making. Not for everyone, bur for anyone who loves a good story well told.
Jan 03, 2015 Émilie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is by far my favorite book. I loved how Gabrielle Roy was able to describe the tough reality of the working class in Montréal at that time, without romanticizing it - just the hard, unfair reality.
Czarny Pies
Nov 03, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tout francophone d'Amérique du Nord
Recommended to Czarny by: Ma mere
Il y a eu Maria Chapdelaine. Ensuite il y a eu le silence. Et puis, tout d'un coup ce roman de la Franco-Manitobaine Gabrielle Roy est arrivé sur la scene pour finallement decrire la vie d'une femme quebecoise du milieu ouvrier et urbain. Bonheur d'occasion constitue bel et bien le debut de la literature moderne de Québec. C'est un des grands oeuvres incontournables que tout francophone d'Amérique devra lire.
Aug 08, 2015 Emilie rated it really liked it
Ayant vécu à St-Henri pendant deux ans il y a près de 15 maintenant, c'est fou comme ça n'avait pas encore vraiment changé. Je sais qu'aujourd'hui c'est un quartier 'up and coming', mais quand j'y habitait il y avait de la misère encore, au point tel que parfois en sortant de mon appartement rue Notre-Dame, je devais demander aux dames de la nuit de bien vouloir me laisser passer...

En tout cas, un autre beau roman de Roy, même s'il n'y a pas vraiment de rédemption et la vie est dure du début à
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Gabrielle Roy was born in March 1909 in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, the youngest of eleven children. Her mother and father, then, were relatively old at the time of her birth -- 42 and 59 respectively. Like Christine's father in Rue Deschambault (Street of Riches), Léon Roy worked as a colonisation officer for the Department of Immigration, a position he held between 1897 and 1915. His politically m ...more
More about Gabrielle Roy...

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“la pauvreté est comme un mal qu'on endort en soi et qui ne donne pas trop de douleur, à condition de ne pas trop bouger. On s’y habitue, on finit par ne plus y prendre garde tant qu’on reste avec elle tapie dans l’obscurité; mais qu'on s'avise de la sortir au grand jour, et on s'effraie, on la voit enfin, si sordide qu'on hésite à l'exposer au soleil.
(Ch. XIII)”
“-Oui, l'argent, tonna le patron. Y en avait pas pour les vieux, ni pour les écoles, ni pour les orphelins, ni pour donner de l'ouvrage au monde. Mais à c'te heure marque ben qu'il y en a pour la guerre. A se trouve à c'te heure, l'argent.
-A se trouve toujours en effette pour la guerre, répliqua Azarius.”
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