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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  5,827 ratings  ·  546 reviews
"It's about a nameless despair, an unbearable sadness. But it's also a reflection on what it means to be a mother, and an artist. Most of all, it's a magnificent novel." —Les Méconnus

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her maternal grandmother. Hoping to understand why the sometime painter and poet associated with Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists that inclu
Paperback, 265 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Coach House Books (first published 2015)
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Allison I think it's a bit of everything. Given the time she has to raise her children, she is trying to be an artist who's trying to make a change in a world…moreI think it's a bit of everything. Given the time she has to raise her children, she is trying to be an artist who's trying to make a change in a world that doesn't want to, even more when a women is trying to. I think it's fair to say she could have tried harder to stay by their side, but I also think she did what was best for them in the moment. Maybe she told herself that another family would take care of them better than her and Marcel. (less)

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Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,827 ratings  ·  546 reviews

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“The first time you saw me, I was one hour old. You were old enough to have courage. Fifty, maybe. It was at St. Justine Hospital. I had just come into the world. I already had a big appetite. I drank her milk like I make love now, like it’s the last time. My mother had just given birth to me. Her daughter, her firstborn.”

I grew up in the same house as my maternal grandmother, from the time of my birth straight through my early college years. She was much like a second mother. Although I knew it
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Told in the form of second person the story is written in little vignettes of beautiful prose and interspersed with some of Suzanne's poetry. It is largely a fictional account but loosely based on some factual information gathered by Suzanne's granddaughter trying to collect whatever threads of info of a grandmother who was mostly absent and distant, a grandmother who she only met a few times. This is a brave attempt to piece together the past and what she uncovers is an interesting and complex ...more
Jenna is buying a house and mostly too busy for GR ❤ ❀  ❤
"I am made partly from your desertion. Your absence is part of me, and it shaped me. You are the one to whom I owe the murky water that feeds my roots, which run deep."

What a breathtakingly gorgeous novel!

Recently I read and reviewed The Ugly Cry, in which we are reminded that many (most?) grandmothers do not fit the stereotypical role our culture has assigned them.

They aren't always, and some are never, sweet and kind, offering fresh-baked cookies, cuddles and kisses.

Sometimes they are absen
Emily M
Feb 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mother, canadian
4.5 stars

An enthralling book, a strange hybrid creature, mostly novel, part fictional biography.

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette met her maternal grandmother Suzanne only three times. Suzanne had abandoned her own children when they were small in order to pursue life – as an artist, perhaps, perhaps only as a free person – and even as an old lady responded to an unexpected visit from the author and her mother with a phone call: “never do that again.” Following her death, Barbeau-Lavalette has tried to re
4 thick textured stars ⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️
SUZANNE by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette came to my attention because it has been long-listed for Canada Reads 2019. The title SUZANNE makes me think of Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen and his song Suzanne. I just had to read this book!
Not being a fluent French reader, I chose to read the English edition by Coach House. The rich thick paper pages enhanced my reading pleasure. I liked the feeling of my fingers turning the pages as I read t
❀ Susan G
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads

Suzanne was a beautifully written, creative fictional story of the author's maternal grandmother. She researched, imagined and pieced together a life lost to her family. She wrote the story trying to recreate her grandmother's life after discovering a selection of pictures after her death in 2009.

This novel was written in French by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette and later translated into English by Rhonda Mullins. I am happy that it was part of the Canada Reads 2
I loved the writing in this book. It was pure poetry and I couldn't put the put it down. And surprisingly even though it is a biography, it is a real page turner. It is a fictional account about the author's grandmother, who was in the public eye and then vanished. The author hired a private investigator to help fill in the blank spaces - partly out of personal curiosity about her familial ties and also because she understood she had the makings of a great story about a strong woman who lived a ...more
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
It’s not everyday that you find a novel written in the second person, but this one works remarkably well. I’m not sure the message will translate to Canada Reads, but we’ll see. This book isn’t very long, but what’s more, the chapters are short, the sentences too. There’s a sense of urgency in these pages that helps the reader understand Suzanne’s ever-present desire to escape her circumstances, whatever they may be.
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars.

The author of this book, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, never knew her maternal grandmother, Suzanne, who abandoned her children when they were young. After her death in 2009, Barbeau-Lavalette hired a private detective to learn about Suzanne’s tumultuous life. With the knowledge she gained, she wrote a fictionalized account of her grandmother’s life, spanning 85 years. Suzanne is written in second-person, which worked surprisingly well for me, and in short vignettes, which I loved. I enjoy
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. I liked the writing style and how the book was made of almost snapshots, seemed very refreshing after so many novels- and helps it be a super quick read. Story wise tho was meh - I just seemed unable to ever really fully connect with the characters or the plot. That may just be me tho
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pieced together with the help of a private detective, Suzanne is a fictionalized telling of the life of Suzanne Meloche (Barbeau) by her granddaughter, Anais Barbeau-Lavalette.

Suzanne is the second book I’ve read of the five shortlisted for the 2019 Canada Reads competition. With the first being By Chance Alone (a memoir written by a concentration camp detainee during the second World War), whatever book I chose to read next would have a tough time knocking Max Eisen’s story from the top of my l
Canada Reads 2019 Shortlist.
2/5 stars.
The theme for Canada Reads this year is a "book to move you", this is not it for me. This book pissed me off. Suzanne is the authors "idea", "recollection" of her maternal grandmother she never knew. Suzanne was a starving artist, who got knocked up and then decided she didn't really want to be a mom, so she left her toddler daughter and infant son to the government system, eventually they were both adopted. Suzanne was a poet, painter and activist. Her gra
Miriam Cihodariu
Jan 02, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
This type of fiction blending auto-biography with classic fictional writing is a very interesting one for me. French scholars call it 'auto-fiction' and I think it's a very appropriate name.

I admire not just the beauty and expressivity of the writing, but also the guts you must have as an author to explore something so painful from your family's past. It's especially wonderful how the author is not judgemental towards her grandmother in any way, but puts her life in the context of the women's i
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn't have a problem with the book being in the second person.

Suzanne was not a likable character, but given the time & place where she spread her wings - 1950's Quebec it is understandable. At that time women didn't have options but to be married and have lots of children - The Roman Catholic Church Ruled.

I don't think that this being a translation detracted from the novel.

Glad to see it made to to the shortlist for Canada Reads this year - and the defender was
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
There’s not another book quite like this. Part memoir, part family saga, part pure fiction, this short novel would send booksellers into fits trying to decide where to shelve it.

Author Anais Barbeau-Lavalette is the daughter of Manon Barbeau, a filmmaker. Manon’s mother was Suzanne Meloche, a poet and painter; Suzanne abandoned her children and husband when Manon was just three years old.

Anais met her grandmother Suzanne exactly twice: once, when she was born, and once when she was 26. Anais a
Unique way of telling the story of a unique woman. Short vignettes poetically written in second person. What happens when a woman chooses a life for herself that does not include her children? Men do it often, but a woman? It’s easy to judge Suzanne, yes, but to try to understand her is what her grand-daughter, author Anais Barbeau-Lavalette set out to do.
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian-author
There is a poetic aloofness throughout this book that I found captivating. I could never relate to the character of Suzanne, but the author herself could never get to know her character so there is an overarching sadness to it all.
Elise Buller
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I really loved this book. It was so full of pain and beauty and had me completely engulfed in its story. The way the author was able to imagine her grandmother so beautifully even after all the sorrow she had caused her family amazes me. It was painfully honest, heartbreakingly beautiful, and mesmerizingly moving. I couldn’t put this one down and would definitely open up its pages to get lost inside once again.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is such a unique book. Poetry, art, biography, fiction all sort of rolled into one. I don't think I've really read anything like this before.

I enjoyed experiencing the imagination of this author, and witnessing how she rolled fact into her dreams, creating an interesting a story that gave me a lot to think about. Would be a great book to incite discussion in a book club -- or for Canada Reads this year!
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
So my review of this book probably says more about me than it does of the book itself. Things I liked: the cover -- a gorgeous way of showing enough of a person without showing the whole person. You have to invent what Suzanne looks like -- the way Anais Barbeau-Lavalette had to invent what Suzanne was like. I liked the second-person narration because it helped me keep in mind that so much of what we learn about Suzanne comes from the author's imagination. The short sentences and pages with only ...more
❀ Susan G
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
This was my second time reading this book and I really enjoyed it. It is an example of a book that you can like while not liking the main character. Although we can likely identify with a woman not wanting to lose herself, it is hard to imagine abandoning one's children. The reader can't help but wonder how things would have turned out differently for the children if they had not been left in the care of others.

The writing flows beautifully and the chapters are short and it is easy to read a few
The second person narration did not work for me. It simply served as a reminder that what I was reading was made up, had not actually happened in that exact way. Although the story is based on "some facts" it felt more false to me than an actual work of fiction. The story is stuck between fiction and non-fiction and failed to engage me. ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazingly brilliant and poignant, this fictionalized biography of Barbeau-Lavalette's maternal grandmother shines and sparkles with darkness and fear and loneliness and love and insight.
I hate Suzanne. I love Suzanne. I hate her.
I don't understand her. I salute her choices.
This story has much to say about feminism, about women's lives and about gender inequality. But I still come back in rage and pain to the question that can never be answered: Why did she leave?
I am humbled by Barbeau-Lavalett
Oct 04, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really gets right the paradoxical and often fleeting feeling desire I have after an unsatisfactory day to just run and leave everything behind and to start a whole new life elsewhere. This persons life is then acting out that feeling whenever, leaving behind their children, friends etc. I describe it to be paradoxical in the sense that you search sometimes desperately even for an environment that you belong to, because that’s why you run, you don’t feel like you’re in the right place, ...more
i found myself thinking about this book so much when i wasn't reading it. this was a great character study of the author's own estranged grandmother, mostly trying to figure out why she abandoned her children. the line between this being a memoir of sorts and fiction is very fuzzy, although i do think it's more fictional. the author tried to piece together her grandmother's life through using a private detective. the grandmother moved around in a group of artists and writers in montreal for a ti ...more
Shima Masoumi
Jun 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was my first read by a québécoise author and I was really captivated by the form of the narration! Anaïs Barbeau takes you to the unique journey of a canadian poet (her grandmother Suzanne Meloche) in the mid 90s.
Suzanne was among the great artists of Montreal and was involved with the automatism movement in Quebec and the great artists of the era.
I’m not sure how much of the personality Anaïs has created is real or even close to Meloche’s, I guess not much, but the book is really well writte
Kristine Burr
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real interesting perspective on a little-known artistic period in Canada, and at the same time, a tale of a dysfunctional family.
Nicole Lundrigan
This book sparked a lot of complicated emotions, and it led to an excellent discussion with some friends. A powerful read!
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It took me a bit to get into the rhythm of 2nd person narrative. Yet once I was in, I was hooked! Excellent character development of Suzanne. In fact, I would have enjoyed reading more about in a longer book.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unusual form, inception.
Wondered about drug use, addiction - missing from this story though it would explain so much.
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Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette (born 1979) is a Canadian novelist, film director, and screenwriter from Quebec.

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