Having joined the UBC last spring, I was surprised to have my turn to pick a novel come up so quickly. With a large group of over 20 members, I assumed I’d have to pay my dues and wait 2 years until my turn would roll around. Instead, I was asked to choose our book in February, less than a year after my inauguration. Obviously, the pressure was on, so I set out to find something that the club would love.
Enter my Nana. One night while having dinner with my grandparents, my Nana asked me if I’d like to read the book she just finished, The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler. After reading the description and finding out the book was long listed for the Giller, my search was over. (And while I did present another option to the club, I was definitely leaning towards this pick).
There were a few reasons that I was drawn to this book. Primarily, the story was set in Montreal following the Second World War and I love a good Canadian setting. Secondly, the story focused on a woman who arrives in Canada with nothing, only to be rejected by her original betrothed and end up marrying his brother…DRAMA! Thirdly, it is revealed that the woman has actually stolen an identity to come to Canada and then disappeared soon after her marriage, leaving a young daughter behind with a quest to find her. So mysterious. Between the drama, mystery and uniquely Canadian element, I was sold. And so was the club.
While the premise seems action-packed, what Richler truly accomplishes with this novel is crafting a story which highlights the emotional struggles of one extended Jewish family living in Canada following the end of the Second World War. In doing so, she paints a larger picture of the melting pot that was Montreal, reflecting on how life carried on in the aftermath of the war from the perspectives of both first and second generation Canadians.
One thing that could be certain, was the strength written into the female characters of this novel. While some members of the book club felt that their stories were too similar in nature, I felt that Richler wrote these similarities deliberately, in an attempt to speak to the fact that many women (and people in general) were dealing with the same type of emotionally trying experiences during this time. One of the novel’s themes was dealing with loss and I felt it was important for these strong characters to have each experienced a great loss, felt hurt and disappointment as a result and carried it with them throughout the rest of their lives. While their experiences and reactions were similar, they were still unique and it was loss which united them.
Our favourite character, of course, was Ruthie. The daughter of Lily, who was abandoned at three months old, Ruthie was unanimously our favourite voice within the novel. Richler achieved a great feat in writing this character; we met her as a young child and as she grew, Richler’s writing grew with her. Often in novels involving children, the child’s voice isn’t age appropriate or believable, but Richler was able to speak from an honest and realistic voice, which we felt made the novel.
The book fell within the middle of the spectrum for the members of the club, generating an average rating of 3/5. Some members of the club felt that the story left too many loose ends, but everyone could agree that the novel was beautifully written, filled with descriptive writing that had the ability to transcend you and make you feel the emotions of the characters. There were striking moments that showed Richler’s maturity as a novelist, which none of us could deny.
As Erin mentioned yesterday, some of us had the opportunity to see Nancy Richler speak about the book a few days before our meeting. I personally feel that hearing her speak about her characters and about growing up in the Jewish community of Montreal during this time has made my experience of the novel. If you ever have the opportunity to go see her, I would highly recommend it.
Overall, I was happy with The Imposter Bride as my pick. While it wasn’t for everyone in the club, all the members found elements that spoke to them, whether it was through a specific character or through the Canadian-specific content. Personally, I will fondly remember my reading experience and the opportunity to meet its lovely author. Plus, my Nana is thrilled with her signed copy of the novel, and that’s really all that matters.