Set between 1913 and 1963 in one of Montreal’s well-known, upper-middle-class suburban neighbourhoods, Martine Desjardins’s The Green Chamber is a fast-paced, highly atmospheric, riveting novel that chronicles the decline of a wealthy French-Canadian family over the course of three generations.
Every house has its secrets, but none hides them better than the august house of the Delorme family. With its sixty-seven locks, brass-grilled counters, and impenetrable underground vault – where lie the mummified remains of a woman clutching a brick between her teeth – the Delorme residence may be apprehended as The Green Chamber’s central persona. A private bank of a sort, it has always held its lot of ill-acquired gains, hidden vices, cruel rituals, and illicit substances away from prying eyes. Louis-Dollard Delorme, his miserly wife Estelle, and his three spinster sisters revere money so much that they have converted their residence’s “Green Chamber” into a place of worship and have elevated domestic penny-pinching to an art form. As for the family’s heir, Vincent, they intend for him to make a highly profitable marriage – a reasonable prospect, until the day when the house opens its door to Penny Sterling, a young woman whose means equal only her curiosity.
Desjardins’s humorous gothic saga – with its gallery of eccentric characters who play the races in secret and sniff vanilla extract – reveals and revels in the fate of family fortunes, where the first generation makes the money, the second generation maintains it, and the third blows it.
The novel’s plot and themes arise, larger than life, from the history of the author’s own family, and from that of her suburban hometown, Mount Royal, whose founding is closely linked to the development of Canada’s national railroad and early industry. The Green Chamber exposes the birth of capitalistic religiosity and sheds light on our economic present: personal finances, once based on a nest-egg savings system, have become a credit-based and debt-ridden travesty.
About the authors
Born in the Town of Mount Royal in Quebec, Martine Desjardins worked as an assistant editor-in-chief at ELLE Québec magazine for four years before leaving to devote herself to writing. Presently she works as a free-lance rewriter, translator and journalist for L’actualité, an award-winning French-language current affairs magazine in Canada. Her first novel, Le cercle de Clara was published by Leméac in 1997, and was nominated for both the Prix littéraires du Québec and the Grand prix des lectrices Elle Québec in 1998. It has been published by Talonbooks in English as Fairy Ring.
Fred A. Reed
International journalist and award-winning literary translator Fred A. Reed is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. After several years as a librarian and trade union activist at the Montreal Gazette, Reed began reporting from Islamic Iran in 1984, visiting the Islamic Republic thirty times since then. He has also reported extensively on Middle Eastern affairs for La Presse, CBC Radio-Canada and Le Devoir. Reed is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation.
Award-winning author and literary translator David Homel also works as a journalist, editor and screenwriter. He was born in Chicago in 1952 but left at the end of the tumultuous 1960s and continued his education in Europe and Toronto before settling in Montreal in around 1980. He worked at a variety of industrial jobs before beginning to write fiction in the mid-1980s. His six novels to date have been translated into several languages and published around the world.
International journalist and award-winning literary translator Fred A. Reed is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. Anatolia Junction, his acclaimed work on the unacknowledged wars of the Ottoman succession, has been translated in Turkey, where it enjoys a wide following. Shattered Images, which explores the origins of contemporary fundamentalist movements in Islam, has also been translated into Turkish, and into French as Images brisées (VLB éditeur, Montréal).
After several years as a librarian and trade union activist at the Montreal Gazette, Reed began reporting from Islamic Iran in 1984, visiting the Islamic Republic thirty times since then. He has also reported extensively on Middle Eastern affairs for La Presse, CBC Radio-Canada and Le Devoir.
A three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation, plus a nomination in 2009 for his translation of Thierry Hentsch’s Le temps aboli, Empire of Desire. Reed has translated works by many of Québec’s leading authors, several in collaboration with novelist David Homel, as well as by Nikos Kazantzakis and other modern Greek writers.
Reed worked with documentarist Jean-Daniel Lafond on two documentary films: Salam Iran, a Persian Letter and American Fugitive. The two later collaborated on Conversations in Tehran (Talonbooks, 2006). He is currently working on a memoir. Fred A. Reed resides in Montréal.
David Homel has translated over 30 books, many by Quebec authors. He won the Governor General's Literary Award in translation in 1995 for Why Must a Black Writer Write About Sex? by Dany Laferrière; his translation of Laferrière's How to Make Love to a Negro was nominated in 1988; and he won the prize in 2001 with fellow translator Fred A. Reed for Fairy Wing. His novels, which include Sonya & Jack, Electrical Storms, and The Speaking Cure have been published in several languages. Homel lives in Montreal, Quebec.
Other titles by Martine Desjardins
Other titles by Fred A. Reed
Zora, A Cruel Tale
Takeover in Tehran ebook
The Inside Story of the 1979 U.S. Embassy Capture
Shattered Images ebook
Then We Were One ebook
Then We Were One
Imperial Canada Inc.
Legal Haven of Choice for the World's Mining Industries
A Covenant of Salt e-book
Empire of Desire
The Abolition of Time