Title: Madame Victoria
Author: Catherine Leroux
Date of Publication: November 13, 2018
In 2001, a skeleton was discovered in the woods behind the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. The remains were never claimed. The mystery woman was lovingly referred to as Madame Victoria by those who sought to identify her. Her case was eventually set aside, replaced by more urgent matters. But Catherine Leroux won’t let Madame Victoria be forgotten. In this compelling novel, Leroux has crafted twelve possible backgrounds for Madame Victoria.
Each individual history is equally breathtaking and heartbreaking. The stories are framed by the tales of the people affected by Madame Victoria’s discovery. Their realization that she will never be identified and the impact that this has on their lives complements the mystery woman’s possible histories in a tragically beautiful way.
The stories are connected by common imagery and the theme of invisibility. Through each story, Leroux reveals a kaleidoscope of emotion and human experience. Each version of Madame Victoria was forgotten for different reasons. A few of the stories towards the end became fantastical – with a little science fiction and fantasy thrown into the mix. This added to the complexity and sheer uniqueness of the book, although my favourite stories are those based in realism.
Leroux uses captivating imagery in her writing, and the words drip off the pages like liquid sugar. She could write about filing your taxes and turn it into a poignant piece that leaves the reader in tears. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
I recommend this book to those who want to read a modern Canadian literary gem, and for those who don’t mind a little tragedy in their leisure reading. That said, I can see Madame Victoria becoming an assigned book in high school French language classes across Canada.
*Thank you to Biblioasis for the advanced reader copy!*
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