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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Andrée A. Michaud

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To purchase Boundary

Title: Boundary
Author: Andrée A. Michaud
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 331 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Boundary - US
Boundary - UK
Boundary - Canada
Bondrée - Canada
Bondrée - France
  • The Last Summer
  • French title: Bondrée
  • Translated by Donald Winkler

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Our Assessment:

B : solid, but also tries too hard to be meaning-full

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Devoir . 31/5/2014 Danielle Laurin
Le Monde . 3/11/2016 Macha Séry
National Post A 19/6/2017 Terra Arnone
Publishers Weekly B- 31/7/2017 .
TLS . 21/3/2018 Rebecca Foster
World Lit. Today A 11-12/2017 J. Madison Davis

  From the Reviews:
  • "L’écriture est enflammée, inspirée. Le rythme est haletant, mais ponctué par des scènes de la vie quotidienne, familiale, qu’on pourrait faire nôtres. L’humanité côtoie le sordide." - Danielle Laurin, Le Devoir

  • "Andrée A. Michaud œuvre sur une ligne de crête, explorant toutes les dimensions de la frontière, et d’abord linguistique. Son roman est habilement ponctué d’expressions anglaises pour faire entendre la dualité de langue et d’origine des protagonistes. (...) Le tout trace le parfait tableau d’un crépuscule exis­tentiel." - Macha Séry, Le Monde

  • "(O)ne of 2017’s finest reads yet. (...) Boundary bucks the thriller genre’s typecast quickly, Michaud making clear that crime here is secondary to her exploration of the human condition. (...) Stylistic nuances might test tolerance -- it takes a little to find her deeper story without much dialogue -- and there’s no simplicity in the questions of existence at hand, but in Michaud’s Boundary, readers will find freedom: a skilled, award-winning author stretching folklore without leaping from truth and within crafting a true thriller, lyrical and satisfying, taut and beautifully told." - Terra Arnone, National Post

  • "The book relies on stereotypical thriller tropes, ham-fisted foreshadowing, and obvious observations, but the final revelation still manages to surprise." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Eschewing dialogue in favour of lyrical reflection, this novel is an offbeat exploration of the grey area between guilt and goodness." - Rebecca Foster, Times Literary Supplement

  • "The architecture of the murder mystery unifies this story, with the usual elements of crime, investigation, and revelation; however, the novel becomes much more than a "whodunit" by using the mystery as a metaphor for the passage from innocence to experience, between knowing the world as a place of wondrous summer days and learning how dark is the night." - J. Madison Davis, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Andrée A. Michaud's novel is in many respects a boundary-tale -- not least in terms of genre: it is a murder-mystery, a not-quite police procedural, but is also meant to be very much a 'literary' work (or, if you want, it's a literary work with mystery-aspirations ...).
       It is set in a(n actual) place literally called Boundary -- Bondrée, as the French-speakers have it -- right by the Quebec-Maine border, "a stateless domain, a no-man's land harboring a lake, Boundary Pond". The novel largely takes place in the summer of 1967 -- a time of upheaval, which filters through even to this isolated vacation-escape locale -- and features a mix of Canadian and American families summering around the small lake.
       The difficulties of communication are easily underscored here, with this mix of French- and English-speakers, and the switching back and forth of languages. (The use of English in the French original of the novel is marked here in italics; obviously, some of the impact is lost in translation -- these parts don't stand out quite as much and obviously -- but readers at least get some sense of it.)
       This place and summer also represent a boundary-world for some of the children and teens spending the summer there, as they test independence, and lose various forms of innocence -- though Michaud admirably does not fall back simply on sexual boundaries and violation(s). Two teens, Sissy Morgan and Elizabeth 'Zaza' Mulligan, close friends who exclude all others, die gruesome deaths -- in the first case, it seems there's a chance it was an accident, but after the second it's clear there is a vicious killer on the loose.
       Boundary is already haunted, in a sense, by an old suicide, who spent most of his life in these parts, and eventually it's hard not to believe that:

Pierre Landry wasn't dead. Pierre Landry had come back to take his revenge on everything beautiful.
       The novel shifts perspectives, among several of those involved in the crime (and the past), the narrator omniscient except for the chapters narrated by twelve-year-old Aundrey -- Andrée Duchamp, a middle child who looks up to Sissy and Zaza. While her first-person account is the most obviously intimate, Michaud peers deeply into the souls of her other characters as well -- notably the chief inspector who runs the investigation, Stan Michaud.
       The crimes are horrible, the girls found mutilated in cruel animal traps. After the first girl is found, the vacationers can still believe it was possibly an accident, and band together to search and clear the entire area of any other stray traps that might still be hidden somewhere; after the second, it's clear something else is going on. There's even a decent suspect, soon enough, and Michaud has no choice but to arrest him, though his heart isn't quite in it. Despite political pressure to tie up the case quickly, he senses that there's more to it -- as, indeed, it turns out there is.
       Child- and adult-worlds, and their separation, are one reason why it takes so long to put the pieces together. There is a resolution, but hardly any sort of happy end: the case has devastated several families, and even those who stood more peripherally are affected. Unsurprisingly, Bondrée is abandoned, including by young Andrée's family, which never return there. Innocence, and more, was lost in that -- as the subtitle has it -- last summer.
       There's a ponderous quality to Boundary, a weight attached to almost every action and interaction, gesture, word. Close-up, it works reasonably well -- Andrée's observations, or inspector Stan's thoughts and feelings, and struggles with the balance of family- and work-life are all quite gripping -- but spread out as it is, over so much and many, it makes for a more wearying read than a murder-mystery and investigation should be. If dominated by Andrée and Stan -- each sharing, obviously not coincidentally, a name, first and last respectively, with the author ... -- Boundary also hovers closely over a crowd of other characters, bogging down in all its seriousness. The twelve-year-old's perspective, in particular, is helpful, since hers is naturally a simpler one that Michaud can't burden with quite so much (though she still does heap quite a bit on).
       Boundary is a solid novel, but feels too forced -- and, often, obvious (from its title to, for example, the names of the girl and policeman in charge).

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 November 2017

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Boundary: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Canadian author Andrée A. Michaud was born in 1957.

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© 2017-2022 the complete review

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