Claire Martin's autobiography was first published in two volumes in 1965 and 1966. Already a prize winning Quebec writer, the author generated a wave of controversy with this detailed account of a childhood subjected to cruelty and brutality. Her deeply moving portrayal drew acclaim from readers who saw aspects of their own childhood experiences mirrored in its pages; it also evoked resistance from traditionalists unsettled by its exposé of family, church, and convent school some decades before the Quiet Revolution. Written with the passion of one who has known harsh injustices, this memoir nevertheless reflects the steady focus and narrative skill of an seasoned writer. With a richly descriptive style and deft ironic touch, Claire Martin tells her own unforgettable story of a young person confronting and finally emerging from the oppressions of unrestrained malign authority.
Claire Martin is the pseudonym of Claire Montreuil. Born in Québec City in 1914, she studied with the Ursulines and the Dames de la Congrégation. She won the Prix du Cercle du livre de France for her first book, a collection of short stories called Avec ou sans amour (1958). This was followed by two novels, Doux-Amer (1960) and Quand j'aurai payé ton visage (1962). Her two autobiographical books, Dans un gant de fer (1965) and La Joue droite (1966) confirmed her reputation and won her the Prix du Québec, the Prix France-Québec and the Governor General's Award. Her style focuses on love, its risks and "illnesses" and a sharp denunciation of prejudice and social conventions. Her work is characterized by pure, beautifully crafted language, plus a fine irony that in her autobiography is sometimes pitiless. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984 in recognition for being "one of the most important writers of her generation in Canada.”