Originally published in 2001, Thunder and Light is the second volume in Marie-Claire Blais’s prize-winning Soifs series, hailed as one of the greatest undertakings in modern Quebec fiction. Powered by its characters’ gripping exploration of the world’s dark corners, the novel is a teeming microcosm in which boundaries collapse and the extremes and contradictions that animate our times are reconciled.
Blais locks us directly into the consciousness of her characters, many of whom we met in her previous novel, These Festive Nights, and many that she derives from actual news stories: Jessica, a seven-year-old attempting to beat the world record as the youngest pilot to cross the continent; Nathanaël, a teenager on death row for killing his favourite teacher; Our Lady of the Bags, a modern-day Joan of Arc who lives among Manhattan’s skyscrapers and follows the voices in her head; and Caroline and Jean-Mathieu, aging artists who are fighting to come together again. One character’s thoughts or actions have consequences for another 3,000 miles away who is a complete stranger to the first.
This is an intricate house of cards, delicately but expertly constructed, that shocks us in its perversity and familiarity, ultimately finding hope and redemption in the most human and basic forms of art.