Chasing ghosts with Chantal Hébert.

In the pile of books set aside for summer reading was Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre’s analysis of The Morning After.  It is supposedly their take on the 1995 Quebec Referendum.  By starting with their book, this might become a long hot summer.

The book had come to the pile as a gift. It had been there for a while. The author(s) had waited almost 20 years to produce the book, so a few years on my must-read-sometime pile would hardly matter.

After reading half and skimming the rest, finishing it is questionable. It is only mildly interesting. It is like reading a review of a Shakespearean play in which you were a spear carrier. You have your own view of the actors and their gaffs.

And, not to speak ill of the dead, I cannot figure out what Jean Lapierre contributed to this book other than his name and access to some other story tellers. If he was the one who got the titular ‘No’ leader, Daniel Johnson, to agree to an interview, he was wasting his time. The only question I ever wanted to hear answered by Johnson was what the hell he was doing in politics? His chapter was a waste of everybody’s time.

And we already knew that then Premier Jacques Parizeau was a mean-spirited, pig-headed, ‘Colonel Blimp’ caricature. He said it all on that final night, slamming ‘money and the ethnic vote.’ We should all be thankful it was his political swan song.

Lucien Bouchard was by far the most convoluted character on the referendum stage. And to think he had been our ambassador to France before joining the Mulroney cabinet. His falling out with Mulroney over the Meech Lake Accord never did make sense. Nobody’s loyalties should teeter on that sharp an edge. And his staged sophistry on separation came across as hollow.

But as much as I have always admired Chantal Hébert’s ease in explaining the Quebec scene, this is not her best effort. Maybe what we really need is writers who can explain Canada to Quebecers. They need to understand the intense love for this entire country that people have whether their family came last year or in the last century. It is not wise to test such love.

And as for Chantal’s book The Morning After. There is a pill for that.

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