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Louis Hémon: Maria Chapdelaine (Maria Chapdelaine)

This is an unromantic view of farmers in the Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec. The story is a simple one. After the death of the man she loves, Maria Chapdelaine must choose between Lorenzo Surprenant, who would take her to an easier life in the United States, or Eutrope Gagnon who would offer her only the same difficult life she has always known. Inevitably she chooses Gagnon. Her decision is seen as a symbol of rejection by the Quebecois of the easy life of the United States in favour of their own way of life, harsh though it may be. Apart from the political aspects – and it has been used extensively by Quebec nationalists for political purposes – the novel is successful because of the variety of styles Hémon uses, from the lyrical descriptions of spring to the harsh descriptions of life in Lac Saint-Jean in winter. There is no waste in this novel as Hémon superbly sets the scene and describes the events and characters that move it forward.

Publishing history

First published 1916 by J.-A. LeFebvre, Montreal (though first serialised in Le Temps (Paris) in 1914)
First published in English 1921 Macmillan
Translated by Andrew Macphail; W.H. Blake, Alan Brown (different editions)