cover image The American Fiancée

The American Fiancée

Eric DuPont, trans. from the French by Peter McCambridge. HarperVia, $27.99 (608p) ISBN 978-0-06-294745-1

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.)