Review: The Breakwater House by Pascale Quiviger

2 Jul

Translated by Lazer Lederhendler

House of Anansi Press, 2010

Two little girls are born five days apart. Lucie lives with her mother, Aurore, who struggles to make ends meet; Claire lives with her wealthy mother, Suzanne, who struggles to make her marriage work. The girls are inseparable.

One night, Lucie begs her mother for a story. And so Aurore begins to recite incredible tales — of Lucie’s grandparents, and of her missing father, and of people who were part of Aurore’s life before Lucie. For 10 years, Aurore weaves a rich skein of tales for Lucie and Claire. Then, when the girls turn 15, Aurore tells the final tale in her tapestry, and disappears forever.

Several years later, Lucie gives birth to a little girl, Odyssee, and she and Claire take turns telling stories to the child. But one day something unspeakable happens. Into the terrible silence, a woman without a name wanders, trying to find the broken pieces of herself.

The Breakwater House is the story of the woman without a name. It is also the story of Lucie and Claire and Aurore and Suzanne — and the complex love between mothers, daughters, and friends. With this thrilling puzzle of a novel, Governor General’s Literary Award winner and Giller Prize nominee Pascale Quiviger shows that she is a writer who is capable of combining stylistic brilliance, philosophical depth, and sheer un-put-downable storytelling.

From The House of Anansi Press website.

I’ll be honest. At first I had a hard time getting into The Breakwater House. I think this had less to do with the book and more to do with me and what I had been feeling/reading before I started it. It’s a very nonlinear book, and I think this threw me for a bit of a loop. Once I let go of my desire for a beginning to end tale and embraced the story within a story within a story, I fell in love with the characters and particularly the writing.

Oh, the writing! Each line was exquisite and the author’s style at times leaned more towards poetry than prose. The book, while small at 198 pages, was rich with detail and description, some so unique that I reread sections just to enjoy the words again.

The Breakwater House is also chock-full of unique women, each powerful and vulnerable in their own way. While the novel centers around Claire and Lucie, we are introduced, through Aurore’s stories, to several other women.

The last 20 or so pages of The Breakwater House are simply brilliant. I can’t say much more without giving stuff away, but even if you don’t like the rest of the book, it’s worth reading for these last pages.

If you are looking for a story that is told logically in a straight line, this may not be the book for you. But if you want a deep and amazing read, where the words are so wonderful it doesn’t always matter if you understand what’s going on, then I suggest you pick up The Breakwater House.

Thank so much to the folks at The House of Anansi Press for my review copy.


One Response to “Review: The Breakwater House by Pascale Quiviger”


  1. Tweets that mention Review: The Breakwater House by Pascale Quiviger « Lavender Lines -- - July 2, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by New Book Reviews, Colleen McKie. Colleen McKie said: Review: The Breakwater House. Beautiful and complicated tale. @HouseofAnansi […]

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