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Suzanne – Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette

Suzanne, or La femme qui fuit in the original French version, is a fiction biography by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. Suzanne is the author’s grandmother, born Suzanne Méloche, she grew up in Ottawa during the Great Depression. Brilliant studen, she moved to Montréal for a debate competition where she met with a group of artists and government dissidents. Laden with passion and a wild freedom, Suzanne lives among Les Automatistes, among which Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Marcel Barbeau. Married to the latter, they have two children together. Her freedom being most precious to her, she moves on and abandon her children to keep on her whirlwind of a way.

From lover to social causes, travelling and living in various countries, she settles only for some time until freedom calls again. It is a story of despair, desire, total expression and entirety. A story of an exceptional woman who long lived in the fringe of History.

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette wrote it based on the findings of a private investigator, after recovering memorabilia from her recently deceased grandmother’s apartment in Ottawa. This intense text, addressed to her grandmother includes vivid sections on creativity, lineage, transmission, and full emotions. La Femme qui fuit has been awarded several prizes, confirming the success encountered with the readers. I warmly recommend reading this dazzling reconstruction of the striking person who Suzanne was.

Note: I read the French version titled La femme qui fuit (The woman who run away) and my review is based on it. Any variation that may be included in the English language translation Suzanne by Rhonda Mullins and published by Coach House Books are not included.

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