Science Friction

Sadie X

A review of Sadie X by Clara Dupuis-Morency

Published on March 14, 2024

Clara Dupuis-Morency obtained her Ph.D. in comparative literature from UdeM in 2016, completing a study on the works of Proust; his style is a spectre here. Perspectives blur in Sadie X when the protagonist’s experience and the narrator’s commentary conjoin. Under layers of complexity are world observations, inner musings, and visions of music and marijuana. The reader faces the challenge of parsing through these narrative layers, and the book promises to present an as-challenging story.  

Sadie X
Clara Dupuis-Morency
Translated by Aimee Wall

Book*hug Press

Sadie X begins with the titular character working in a Marseille biology lab with scientist Dr. François Réigner. She soon discovers a Pandoravirus, a mega-virus that defies how viruses are believed to live. She travels back to Montreal to identify it – coincidentally, her father, Dr. X senior, possesses the resources and contacts to achieve this. At an emotional cost, Sadie decides to extend her stay and confront the life she left behind. While she has transformed, her memories of Montreal force her to reckon with the past. Studying the virus and its mystery becomes key to her meditations and journey through change. 

Yet, while the narrator lingers on ideas of transformation, I felt a profound distance from the main character. Sadie loves drugs and music, she feels out of touch with her younger coworkers, and she sympathizes with the viruses she studies; she grapples with her queerness and her past, and on the surface, she appears to be a character with personality and depth. But I have little idea of why Sadie reacts the way she does, her sense of agency within the story, and ultimately she falls to the tsunami of the narrator’s thoughts and beliefs, creating a blurred reading experience that takes me out of the story, much to my disappointment. 

During a family dinner near the end of the book, Sadie encounters her estranged sisters for the first time in years. Under the ailing condition of a family member, the dynamic has changed. Here, Sadie must face a decision to stay and be there for her family, or to leave. In the end, her choice displays her character and demonstrates how her actions are guided by what matters most to her; I wanted scenes like this earlier and more frequently in the novel. 

Yes, change is a constant in life. But having ways to process that change is also a part of that quintessential human experience. Making mistakes is what brings tension and drama to a narrative. And maybe I just don’t get Proust and can’t appreciate sentences that span an entire page. Maybe I would think differently if I had read the novel in the original French; much of the meaning and the experience of reading is tied to a language. But Sadie’s musings and inner turmoil did little to resonate with me because of the distance placed between her and the reader. Experimental in a good way, Sadie X falls short of the emotional complexity I expected, preferring instead to drown the reader in a philosophical stream of consciousness.mRb

Alexander Taurozzi is a writer currently residing in Tkaronto/Toronto, Canada who writes fictional short stories, non-fiction pieces, and other laminated experiments. He enjoys hiking, creating films and writing scripts, and dreams of becoming one of them Greek papous drinking frappé on the islands all his days.



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