Review of Last Days of Montreal
“Short stories that spin, challenge and surpise
The annual Journey Prize anthology heads a quartet of savoury collections.
. . .The future looks equally rosy for former filmmaker, rookie writer, and Hamilton resident John Brooke, creator of this year's 10-grand-tale, The Finer Points of Apples. In this magnificent political allegory, Brooke gleefully opens the can of worms known as the Quebec Question. Set in Montreal during the 1995 referendum, The Finer Points of Apples giggles and hissy-fits with a burlesque streak that magically makes the world of Geneviève and Bruce, her anglo husband, go wonkily around.
The story involves Geneviève's affair with the passionate and romantic husband of Micheline, Gaston Le Gac, the spellbinding apple vendor from the open-air market who speaks her language, particularily when it comes to the delicate distinctions among various forms of the fruit in question. "Lobo," opines Gaston, "is soft but in all its negative connotations. Sweetness, character . . . there is nothing there! . . . Lobo is entirely too easy. If McIntosh is for a baby, Lobo's for a sauce and not much else." He rolled over, sipped on her nipple. "It's my biggest seller though. I have to love Logo regardless of what I know is true."
Naturally, Geneviève has trouble identifying what's true, which mildly distresses her perusive paramour. "We'll see what happens," he coos reassuringly. "slicing an apple into perfect halves," demonstrating where "'each side shows a five-pointed star, the sign of immortality, th esign of the Goddess in her five stations from birth to death and back to birth again. It's a Celtic thing. You have the Celt inside you – lots, according to your cousin Yves. Who you are lasts forever'"
More Reviews of this title
“Last Days of Montreal follows Yeats’ adage about writing on sex and death. The novel is ribald, serious and fun, and it treats the “death” of Montreal with humour. Serious in its attention to political, economic and social forces in Quebec, and fun, with its light, love, eroticism and grace in many guises.”
“…skillfully and humorously explores the political tensions in Quebec society in the 1990s and their impact on daily life.”
“John Brooke shows himself to be the kind of writer who can consistently achieve that noblest of fiction’s aims: to render the local so faithfully that it becomes, paradoxically, universal.”
“Journey worth taking
An annual light shines on that fiction-writing bedrock, the wee literary magazines
. . . Of the few non-adolescent pieces in the collection, John Brooke's "The Finer Points of Apples" stands out (and not just because he was the eventual winner of the $10,000 prize). First appearing in Hamilton-bassed Kairos, it would seem to be a simple story of a woman who commits adultery with an apple grower in Quebec around the time of the 1995 referendum campaign. But it is in fact a beautifully constructed, subtly philosophical mediation on love, lust and the idea of place, in the vein of Milan Kundera. Here is the protagonist describing her lover: "Gaston LeGac had long fingers that knew how to reach deep into her different openings to places Bruce had never been, or scratch her breast at le moment juste, or slap her bottom with a calculated measure of playful malice which would make her insides flow. Or baking the apple: He would disengage completely – maybe softly kiss – while pressing an apple against her. She would ply herself upon its smoothness. It was birth in reverse, the head of the child she had never made."
Maybe it's no coincidence that Hamilton's story is about a man and Brooke's story is about a women; sometimes we have to write outside the boundaries of biography to reach that other less easily arrived at place where fact, imagination, and craft come together in one inimitable package – art. ”