Monique Proulx wrote the novel Champagne. It is translated into English under the title Wildlives, and the reason I am compelled to write a post about the book before I even finish it, is because I am awed by it. I picked it up off the new arrival rack at the library, and I will have order a copy for myself (so I can mark it up – see what you have created, Cynthia!) and an original french version. (She is from Montreal – yaye! And no, I do not know her.)

The novel is astounding to me, not only for the beautiful prose and the fascinating characters, each shown through their own POV and unique voice, but because she perfectly succeeded in doing what she set out to do. That was to show how nature heals. Her word choices interweaves this element into the story with startling ease. Even if this theme is not for you, I would recommend it solely for the craft.


Various characters inhabit the same space, each seeing nature differently. One, to live with it, another to conquer, and another to tame.

There is an elder (but not old!) woman who is the caretaker of the forest.

A young misguided boy, who survived a fire and is spending the summer in the woods hoping to heal.

A thriller/horror/mystery script writer who uses the forest as her writing refuge and who loves nature, but only if it heeds her rules.

Look at Proulx’s use of language:

the young boy: He hadn’t chased the cat for more than a moment when a voice hailed him, not a cat’s voice, but a human voice, strong enough that he had no choice but to stop. It was a woman squatting a few paces from him, on an embankment. She unfolded her limbs slowly, interminably, the way a tree trunk would if tree trunks were allowed to bend and stretch, until at last standing.

script writer: She went down to the dock, the altar dedicated to the adoration of the sun. The day was already too fine to spend at a desk inside – for on the dock, looking out over the lake that was as smooth as skin, you were inside the very marrow of the universe.

the caretaker of the forest upon her initial sighting of the land that would become hers: She saw the the track that, each morning the moose followed to the shore to drink; the chanterelles and the boletuses mushrooming up through the moss, she saw the red rowboat that, each spring, they would surely patch up once more as if it were a part of themselves that leaked but stayed afloat, she saw all the cracks she might slip through to understand the world. She saw the old woman she would be one day, hopping light-footed from one slippery rock to another, surrounded by black flies that did not touch her.

And this is not in its original language. I think the translators delighted in playing with such words.

10 thoughts on “WildLives

  1. This sounds delightful! I will see if I can get a copy from the library here. As you know, POV and voice are things that are very much on my mind at the moment so I’m keen to read novels where these are handled well. I need some inspiration!

    Interesting point about the translators. I always wonder if I am missing something when reading translated texts. It must be very hard to get not only the meaning of the words right but also the rhythm and the atmosphere they invoke. You can let us know how the French version compares!

    1. Try to get a hold of a copy, Helen – it really is great. It’s not letting me down as I get further in. Not sure how available it is outside of Canada, let alone Quebec, but maybe as it was a finalist for the Governor General Awards 2008.

    1. Welcome home owl and sparrow.
      The author is quite well known, yet this is my first contact with her. One of her books that is highly praised is
      The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle. The title gets some slag from reviewers, but I think it’s great!

  2. Another character is introduced.
    Uncle to mentioned healing boy. the boy is staying with him. I just had to share the two lines:

    He should have taken all of them. All victims of ugliness, captives in places of deep hurt where life had no room to stretch its legs.


    Summertime, and the children vanished, and fatherhood along with it. And at the same time, that air of respectability that makes us waddle through life with the awkward stiffness of penguins. In summer, there was nothing small about his life. Often he was a hero or a king. Sometimes he felt on equal footing with the leaves and the moss, and that was perfect. The fact of being alone most of the time. The fact of being constantly surrounded by water. That helped untie the problematic knots, and created a smooth space in his mind, a kind of interconnected lake whose surface was scarcely ruffled by contrary winds.


    Another thing that is surprising me with this book is that the torrent of description does not slow down the pace at all.

    Notice all the broken rules, Linda?

    1. Oh, Rebecca I am never anywhere I want to be enough! But, I take and give what I can.
      I hope the back passes (i too struggle with lower back problems on and again. It can be awful!)

  3. : ) Yes, there’s nothing like writing in a book to internalize what a writer is doing, to remember all those great lines, to make it yours.

    I almost ordered it in French, but went with the English. Thank you so much for recommending it. I can’t wait to start reading.

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