The third novel in the highly acclaimed quartet, The Charles the Bold Series, about a young man growing up in Montreal from the 1960s to 2000.
The last lines of volume two, The Years of Fire , have young Charles Thibodeau defiantly shouting "Montreal! You're going to be hearing from me! I'm going to make your ears ring!" -- just like Balzac's hero Rastignac in Paris.
Now, after leaving high school at sixteen, Charles takes the leap and sets out to write The Great Montreal Novel. His stepfather, Fernand, is furious -- "If I ever run into that goddamned Balzac I'm going to wring his neck for him . . ." -- but Charles rents an apartment and a typewriter and sets to work.
What follows is Yves Beauchemin's brilliant account of the joys and perils of a young novelist's life. As the pages pile up, the money runs out. In due course, Charles has encounters with a sneering literary publisher and an oily vanity publisher, with predictable results.
Desperate, Charles takes on any job that comes his way -- in his stepfather's hardware store, as a dog-catcher (his skill at barking provokes unlicensed dogs to bark back), and as a front man for a touring evangelist. Finally, he succeeds in getting a writing job. It's at a third-rate magazine, but his foot is on the ladder.
As always, Charles is supported by his friends during these adventures, and leads his life against the Quebec politics of the 1980s, involving Trudeau and others. And, as always, the sheer skill of Yves Beauchemin's traditional storytelling sweeps us along, reminding us of the great novelists of the past.