A Secret Between Us

Daniel Poliquin's novel follows a man who returns to life in Ottawa after facing the horrors of the First World War.

Daniel Poliquin, translated by Donald Winkler

When young Lusignan sets off from Ottawa to the First World War with the Pricess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, he has already survived a tragicomic Catholic childhood and a writing career that has brought him both acclaim and disgrace. Shortly before the men depart for Europe, Lusignan has an encounter with a fellow officer, the aristocratic Essiambre d'Argenteuil, that proves to be the defining moment of his life.

Returning from Europe a hollow man, Lusignan keeps the memory alive by shadowing Amalia Driscoll, a woman whose strait-laced proprieties were challenged by this same d'Argenteuil. He encounters Concorde, the untutored young maid struggling to get by in the Flats district of Ottawa, and the Capuchin monk Father Mathrun, who longs for martyrdom in a foreign land. Providing the backdrop to Poliquin's incisive character study is a vivid evocation of a pivotal era in Canadian history. (From Douglas & MacIntyre)

From the book

She died just before the battle of Vimy. The telegram was signed by the village postmistress, who must have pitied my illiterate father, otherwise she would never have written to the happy reprobate I was: "Your mother is dead. Pray." I sought out my warrant officer, hoping that my loss might garner me a two-day leave that would free me to go and ask Nurse Flavie from the Vendée if she might one day love me. The officer had a good laugh: "My ass, Sergeant, that's the fourth time she's died, your old lady! You should try doing in your father for a change!" I protested a little. I even swore that this time it was true. He told me to screw off. I consoled myself with the thought that the imminent death of my mother had already earned me two leaves in Droucy, where Nurse Flavie's unit was encamped. She was the first woman in my life whom I'd desired more than once.

From A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin, translated by Donald Winkler ©2007. Published by Douglas & MacIntyre.