Get to know your region's Top 5: Quebec

Quebec's list draws heavily from CanLit classics, but there's room too for a contemporary murder mystery and a poetic novel of the immigrant experience. Today, we offer a short guide to the five novels from la belle province.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

beautiful mystery 110x180.jpg What's it about?
The latest in Louise Penny's bestselling mystery series featuring Inspector Armand Gamache, The Beautiful Mystery takes place at a secluded monastery deep in the woods in rural Quebec where two dozen monks have taken a vow of silence. When the church's choir director is murdered, Gamache must delve into the silent brothers' secrets to solve the case.

What did the critics say?
Penny can do no wrong in the eyes of her mystery-loving readers, and like its predecessors in the series, The Beautiful Mystery has been enthusiastically received. Many critics say that Penny's stories transcend the murder mystery genre with their humanity and compassion.

What else do I need to know?
Published this year, The Beautiful Mystery was named a "Best Summer Book" by Publishers Weekly and spent time on bestseller lists in both Canada and the United States. It is the eighth book in Penny's Inspector Gamache series. 

Ru by Kim Thuy

ru 110x180.jpg What's it about?
Based loosely on Thuy's own experiences as a Vietnamese immigrant to Montreal, Ru is a collection of impressionistic vignettes about a young girl whose life takes her from a luxurious home in Saigon to a refugee camp in Malaysia and to a promising new life in Quebec.

What did the critics say?
Across the board, critics and prize juries raved about Ru, calling it "powerful and engaging" and "delicately unique."

What else do I need to know?
Ru was originally published in French in 2010 and won a whole whack of awards, including the Governor General's Award for fiction, before being translated and published in English this year, when it was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler

solomongursky110x180.jpg What's it about?
A multi-generational saga about the wealthy and prominent Montreal Gursky family, Solomon Gursky Was Here is written from the perspective of a failed alcoholic writer, Moses Berger, who pursues the story of the Gurskys to the point of obsession.

What did the critics say?
Critics responded well to Gursky, immediately ranking it among Richler's best work.

What else do I need to know?
Though Richler always denied the connection, many people have observed the strong similarities between the fictional Gurskys and the real-life Bronfmans, which led to much speculation and made Richler rather unpopular in certain circles. Solomon Gursky Was Here was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize upon its publication in 1990. 

The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy

tin flute 110x180.jpg What's it about?
Gabrielle Roy's classic novel follows a family living in the slums of Montreal as they struggle to overcome their poverty and attempt to find love.

What did the critics say?
The Tin Flute became an instant classic, thanks to Roy's masterly, beautiful writing.

What else do I need to know?
First published in 1945, The Tin Flute was Roy's first novel and immediately established her as a major Canadian voice. It won both the Governor General's Award for fiction and France's Prix Femina award.

Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan

two solitudes 110x180.jpg What's it about?
Athanase Tallard is born of an aristocratic French-Canadian tradition, while his beautiful wife Kathleen is of Irish heritage. Their son Paul, meanwhile, must navigate the conflicting interests in his blood: he is at home speaking both French and English, but feels alienated from both cultures...and he is struggling to write a novel that will help define his Canadian identity.

What did the critics say?
Two Solitudes almost instantly became a classic work about Canadian identity.

What else do I need to know?
Two Solitudes won the Governor General's Award for fiction when it was published in 1945, the first of five such awards that MacLennan would win in his life.

Which one of these titles do you want to see on Canada Reads 2013? Let us know and you could win a Kobo Touch eReader!
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