A Kiss from Montreal
River City by John Farrow (real name Trevor Ferguson).
It's a big pretentious messy historical fiction/crime novel about Montreal, the river city of the title, that has -- so far-- included Jacques Cartier, the Maurice Richard riots, Samuel de Champlain, stories of the "Open City," Pierre Elliot Trudeau, politics, the bold theft of a priceless artifact, Hurons, crazy priests, kidnapping, hockey, the Sun Life Building, corruption, Mohawks, French-Canadian nationalists, de Maisonneauve, murder, the founding of Montreal and even Farrow's own detective from two previous novels, Cinq-Mars, appearing as a young kid. It jumps all over the place, from the beginning of time to about 1955 (so far), and its universe is still expanding, even as other stories and characters and subplots play out and then disappear. Suffice it to say it's a heady trip.
And, as I said, it's big, pretentious and messy. It's a whopper -- it's close to 1000 pages, and it's bold and audacious. And I'm loving every minute of it. Which may be why I'm going on about a book I haven't even finished.
Oh, I'm sure there are those who will quibble (or be out right pissed off) with Farrow's interpretation of some sacred incident or beloved figure in our shared but fractious history (I know I squirmed a few times), but hey, we're Montrealers. That's what we do -- we argue and debate and discuss politics and history and hockey and art and life with heat and passion. Preferably over great food and drink.
I'm not even sure if anyone who hasn't truly loved Montreal will really "get" this book (it's not even available in the States -- my kids sent it to me for my birthday). But for anyone who's ever wandered too far from home, but still burns with memories of standing amidst the swirl of Ste. Catherine Street and breathing in the heady perfume of a city that's truly alive, walked into a taverne and held up two fingers to some waiter known simply as "Chief" or stood on the lookout on Mont Royal and gazed out with awe and affection upon the St. Lawrence and the River City and a forest of church steeples rising up from an endless sea of tenements toward heaven, this is like a French kiss from home, all unexpected passion and love and sloppiness; a warm, lingering kiss that hits you hard in all the right places.