Emotional Geography

House of Sighs

By X. I. Selene

A review of House Of Sighs by Jocelyne Saucier

Published on April 1, 2002

House Of Sighs
Jocelyne Saucier

The Mercury Press
$17.95
paper
112pp
1-55128-091-4

The idyllic and the peculiar merge in Jocelyne Saucier’s House of Sighs, the off-kilter imaginary memoirs of an ideal daughter. Permeated with an unsettled nostalgia, this tale could hardly begin with words any more indicative of the oddness to follow: “Whenever I stir up my childhood memories, a smell of menstruation begins to drift over them.” For this unnamed little girl and her accommodating father live in almost religious obeisance to her mother’s menstrual cycles. But what begins as a feminist utopia adapted to the nuclear family shortly becomes a disturbing and occasionally melodramatic struggle to maintain impossible illusions.

At its zenith, House of Sighs is pure theatre of the absurd. The earnest, detailed depiction of this private universe and its unique set of rules is simultaneously hilarious and troubling. The choice of tone is intelligent. With simple sincerity the protagonist convincingly reveals that for three years her father’s definitive departure has been hidden, denied, and neatly explained away.

The fantastic events of this novel, however, problematize the inclusion of the little girl’s daydreams, which pale by comparison. These likely daydreams, faithfully copied down, cancel the power of the unlikely fantasies that make up the tragicomic substance of this book. Unfortunately, Saucier’s grand reductio ad absurdum of motherly love suffers a little from this narrative betrayal, becoming attenuated at its conclusion. mRb

X. I. Selene is a Montreal writer.

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