Cover image for The American fiancée : a novel
Title:
The American fiancée : a novel
Uniform Title:
Fiancée américaine. English
ISBN:
9780062947451
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
662 pages ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Originally published as La fiancée américaine in Canada in 2012 by Marchand de feuilles. Originally published in English as Songs for the Cold of Heart in 2018 by QC Fiction, an imprint of Baraka Books. First HarperVia hardcover published in 2020.
Summary:
Born on Christmas, Louis Lamontagne, the family's patriarch, is a larger-than-life lothario and raconteur who inherits his mother's teal eyes and his father's brutish good looks and whose charms travel beyond Quebec, across the state of New York where he wins at county fairs as a larger-than-life strongman, and even in Europe, where he is deployed for the US Army during World War II. We meet his daughter, Madeleine, who opens a successful chain of diners using the recipes from her grandmother, the original American Fiancée, and vows never to return to her hometown. And we end with her son Gabriel, another ladies' man in the family, who falls in love with a woman he follows to Berlin and discovers unexpected connections there to the Lamontagne family that re-frame the entire course of the events in the book.
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Summary

Summary

In this extraordinary breakout novel--a rich, devastatingly humorous epic of one unforgettable family--award-winning author Eric Dupont illuminates the magic of stories, the bonds of family, and the twists of fate and fortune to transform our lives.



Over the course of the twentieth century, three generations of the Lamontagnes will weather love, passion, jealousy, revenge, and death. Their complicated family dynamic--as dramatic as Puccini's legendary opera, Tosca--will propel their rise, and fall, and take them around the world . . . until they finally confront the secrets of their complicated pasts.

Born on Christmas, Louis Lamontagne, the family's patriarch, is a larger-than-life lothario and raconteur who inherits his mother's teal eyes and his father's brutish good looks and whose charms travel beyond Quebec, across the state of New York where he wins at county fairs as a larger-than-life strongman, and even in Europe, where he is deployed for the US Army during World War II. We meet his daughter, Madeleine, who opens a successful chain of diners using the recipes from her grandmother, the original American Fiancée, and vows never to return to her hometown. And we end with her son Gabriel, another ladies' man in the family, who falls in love with a woman he follows to Berlin and discovers unexpected connections there to the Lamontagne family that re-frame the entire course of the events in the book.

An unholy marriage of John Irving and Gary Shteyngart with the irresistible whimsy of Elizabeth McCracken, The American Fiancée is a big, bold, wildly ambitious novel that introduces a dynamic new voice to contemporary literature.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Canadian author Dupont (Life in the Court of Matane) spins an unwieldy yarn spanning from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic in rural Quebec to Rome in the early days of the new millennium. In 1918 Rivière-du-Loup, Canada, Louis Lamontagne is born during a live nativity scene to an American mother. Louis, nicknamed "the Horse" due to his size, is raised by his grandmother Old Ma Madeleine and grows into a strongman performer, touring county fairs in America. He then enlists during WWII, participates in the liberation of Dachau, and returns to the U.S., where he marries a local girl and becomes a washed up drunk. Moving forward to the mid 1960s, his daughter, Madeleine, is embarrassed by Louis and devotes her energy to her twin sons. The second half of the story follows the different paths of the twin boys: Gabriel becomes a muscled seducer of women (unknowingly in his grandfather's vein) and moves to Berlin; Michel becomes a world class opera singer, filming a new version of Puccini's Tosca in Rome. As the novel accelerates toward the finale, the disparate threads interweave heavy-handedly with the characters converging on the Roman film set. While jam-packed with family secrets and deceptions, Dupont's sprawling tale also risks reader exhaustion. Those who enjoy sprawling family sagas and are willing to put in the work will find this outing has its rewards. (Feb.)


Kirkus Review

French Canadian Dupont's bruiser of a novel begins as a traditional family saga set in a small, early-20th-century Quebec village before swerving into new, less linear, and more psychologically demanding territory.Born in 1918 and almost immediately orphaned, larger-than-life figure Louis Lamontagne grows up with his grandmother Madeleine, a powerhouse herself, in Rivire-du-Loup. The names Louis and Madeleine will recur among other characters, as will a birthmark shaped like a bass clef and blue eyes in a particular shade of teal. Louis' nickname, "The Horse," is his alone, however, derived from his mythic strength. Womanizing, storytelling Louis' life is by turns rollicking and tragic. He evolves from a charismatic, beloved boy to a witness to World War II atrocities to an alcoholic funeral director after his youngest son dies in a tragic accident. His middle child, Madeleine, eventually takes center stage. As a pregnant, unmarried teenager, she moves to Quebec City in the 1960s and opens a diner that she expands into a hugely successful chain while raising twin sons, Michel and Gabe. This first half of the novel, chock full of digressive stories about seemingly minor characters, has a rambling, overstuffed, 19th-century feel. But then, more than 250 pages in, Dupont shifts gears; the novel narrows and becomes epistolary. In 1999, Gabe, on a hopeless romantic quest in Germany, and Michel, an opera singer making a controversial film version of Tosca in Rome, begin a correspondence expressing their ambivalence toward each other and their conflicting views of their mother. Meanwhile, Gabe meets an elderly German woman with a convoluted story she shares in notebooks that take Gabe and the reader in unexpected directions. Everyone's version of events differs here; there's no trusting who's hero, victim, or villainor what's real; parallels accumulate; every casually mentioned detail becomes important as truths are revealed.While the intensity of Dupont's prose can be maddening, the sweet, sour, and salty world he creates is thoroughly addictive. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Early in the twentieth century, the titular American fiancée, Madeleine, arrives in the remote Quebecois town of Rivière-du-Loup to wed Louis-Benjamin in accordance with her family's wishes. That marriage will spawn generations of teal-eyed descendants, starting with Louis the Horse Lamontagne, whose penchant for gin-fueled stories drives much of the early part of this immensely entertaining and fluidly translated novel. While ordinary love is cruel, Puccinian love is merciless, says Solange, a family friend. Indeed, the Puccini opera Tosca occupies prime real estate as its plot shapes this multigenerational epic that zooms in and out of individual characters' lives. Looping from small-town Canada to Montreal, the action reaches to Nazi Germany and contemporary Europe. If at times key pivot points depend too conveniently on coincidence, Dupont's spellbinding tale nevertheless spectacularly drives home the wonders of long-form storytelling. Stories, Michel, they're good for kids, but then one day you grow up and you've got adult problems, says the Horse's daughter, Madeleine, dismissively. She's got a point, but when we shed our mortal skins, our stories are all that we leave behind. Through his characters, Dupont has woven a memorable one.--Poornima Apte Copyright 2020 Booklist