Mario Lessard, 12, has disappeared. Four decades will pass before his corpse is found. A friend of the time, Patrice, remembers. I’m talking about a time …
Anyone who has known the 1970s will succumb to Claude Champagne’s latest novel, which brings out down to the smallest detail a past that a crazy number of Quebecers have in common.
Anyone who has not known the 1970s is also likely to be won over because Champagne signs a magnificent story of friendship and resilience in the face of drama. Hence the fine mix of humor and lightness that allows you to face fear.
Because it materialized in one word: kidnapping.
It is June 1978 and the 6th grade students of a school in Nouveau-Rosemont, in the east of Montreal, watch summer arrive with recklessness. Except that this Monday morning, two policemen show up in class, want to meet them: their comrade Mario Lessard has disappeared.
It would go back to Friday evening and all that Patrice Montambeault, who tells us the story, can say about it is that The last time we saw him, it was at Perrette – as the title of the book indicates. .
Mario was not a close friend, but to have known him that famous evening, it makes you want to act. So Patrice and his friends, little rascals in need of adventure, decide to investigate the neighborhood. After all, they have “their” list of suspects and plenty of time.
This special summer comes back to the memory of Patrice, who is now 52 years old. We are in 2018 and the body of little Mario has finally been found …
Like other students of the time, he therefore went to the funeral home. Less out of friendship than out of duty to remember. It is not that easy to take on after all. Does he really want to see so many people lost to follow-up, to rewrite this forgotten time?
The whole story will thus unfold on two levels. On the one hand, the events such as Patrice saw them at 12 years old and then the way in which he remembers them forty years later.
This meeting of the action of childhood and the reflections of the adult gives a truly particular tone to the novel. Claude Champagne combines candor and lucidity in a writing all in tenderness. From a story, plausible but invented, he draws a portrait of the generation of great accuracy.
With him, we revisit the shores of adolescence, when innocence gives way to discovery; we walk in a neighborhood that looks like a village; and a few words are enough to resuscitate an entire era.
Think Perrette or Tabagie, Mini-Sips, “we bar Cadbury”. Think Spider and Cournoyer, bécyk Torpado, Jaws, Kiss … Think of the fashion of the time, kung fu …
It is beautiful the conclusion which recalls how “nostalgia colors our memories”. Mario Lessard, he will not have been entitled to it and this is also what grabs the heart.