In 2001, a woman’s skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital’s patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman’s face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten.
But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman. Like musical variations repeating a theme, each Victoria meets her end only after Leroux resurrects her, replacing the anonymous circumstances of her death with a vivid re-imagining of her possible lives. And in doing so, Madame Victoria becomes much more than the story of one unknown and unnamed woman: it becomes a celebration of the lives and legacies of unknown women everywhere.
By turns elegiac, playful, poignant, and tragic, Madame Victoria is an unforgettable book about the complexities of individual lives and the familiar ways in which they overlap.
Catherine Leroux was born in 1979 in the Northern suburbs of Montreal. After holding various jobs she became a journalist and devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, Marche en forêt, was published in 2011 by Éditions Alto, and her newest novel is Madame Victoria (Éditions Alto, 2015). The Party Wall, her English-language debut published with Biblioasis in 2016, was selected for Indies Introduce for Summer/Fall 2016, was shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and won the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Translation.
Praise for Madame Victoria
"An unnerving series of portraits . . . both intimately personal and bound to universal elements of mortality, physicality, and femaleness . . . [Leroux] expertly probes fallible, achingly human characters to form a portrait of a lost woman and examine the fragile forces that underlie a life. Gorgeously written, unsettling, and well worth the read." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Leroux is a fearless writer who invokes fable with sure-footed confidence ... The end result is a novel that packs a star’s density of rage and love into its pages, a delicate and unflinching look at the impossibilities of womanhood that is nothing short of incandescent. A testament to the power of fable and myth, Madame Victoria is a triumphant feat of storytelling." —Quill & Quire (starred review)
"Equal parts compelling and unsettling . . . Even as Leroux’s descriptions depart from our expectations and reaches for the strange or the surreal or for the unfamiliar emotional landscape, the Victorias’ stories are resonant and disorienting." —Winnipeg Free Press
“An imaginative, haunting, and insightful examination of the lives of women...absorbing and often poignant, Madame Victoria is an achievement, both as a mystery about the missing identity of one woman and in its portrayal of women’s lives more broadly.” —Foreword Reviews Praise for Catherine Leroux
“…superbly crafted…Leroux skillfully reveals the inner worlds of her achingly human characters and the intricate bonds that connect them to each other. Images from this beautiful and moving book will haunt readers.” —Publishers Weekly
“…full of insightful passages, dynamic characters and surprising situations. The Party Wall is a searching investigation of familial ties of biology and biography and the complex ways in which self-discovery affects our relationships.” —The Winnipeg Review
“Initially, The Party Wall reads like a collection of linked stories; past the halfway mark, however, it reveals itself as something more intricate and cumulative… A surprising, carefully structured novel that for English readers will bring to mind David Mitchell, this feels much more expansive than its page count.” —The Globe and Mail
“A revelation… an emotionally affecting, intellectually stimulating examination of separation and connection.”—Ian McGillis, Montreal Gazette