The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

Saturday Night

(HarperCollins, 2014)

An adult fiction pick by Jean-Louis

Heather O’Neill’s first novel is the very successful Lullabies for Little Criminals. That novel was successfully championed on CBC’s Canada Reads by John K. Samson of the band The Weakerthans. Lullabies is set in the hardscrabble streets of Montreal and follows the adventures of Baby, who is making her way in the world with very few advantages but a lot of moxie. O’Neill’s second novel returns to that same landscape, with the same kind of sounds and characters, but the story has a gentler edge.

In The Girl Who Was Saturday Night we follow the late adolescent/early adult lives of Noushcka and and Nicolas Tremblay. They are twins who have barely separated from one another even outside the womb. Brought up by their grandfather LouLou, the twins are media darlings traipsing along with the career of their famous father Etienne Tremblay. Precocious and witty, the twins are known by everyone in the city  Montreal and it is the city which is their true home and surrogate parent. Whenever they have to leave the city, their centre is thrown out the window.

O’Neill’s characters are all a little over the top, a little not in control, and at the same time, they are all grounded in a unique eccentricity. I have visited Montreal on many occasions and I think that O’Neill has captured something of the spirit of the city quite well. The people of the city are confident–they are recognizable types but not what you would encounter on the streets of Toronto or Winnipeg. In an O’Neill novel, the characters celebrate their oddities and stumble along finding their own way in life amongst a tribe known as Montrealers.

Read O’Neill and discover a new and vital voice on the Canadian literary landscape!

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