cover image Autumn Rounds

Autumn Rounds

Jacques Poulin, trans. from the French by Sheila Fischman. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-953861-06-1

Canadian novelist Poulin (Mister Blue) continues his oeuvre of quiet, unimposing fiction with this delicate tale of a Quebec City bookmobile owner whose solitary life is upended after he meets an alluring woman. Known only as “the Driver,” the eccentric protagonist surrounds himself with books and rejected manuscripts donated by their authors, and grimly anticipates the encroaching decline of his later years, which he intends to circumvent through suicide. While investigating the sounds of a marching band in his neighborhood, he meets Marie, the lovely organizer of a troupe of traveling artists. Like him, she’s gray-haired and reserved, and she’s beautiful, but she’s involved with fellow troupe member Slim. Regardless, Marie and the Driver’s relationship deepens, affording Poulin plenty of opportunities to depict Quebec landmarks in lush detail as the couple rides together along the bookmobile routes, during which a booksmith named Jack pops in to share his literary observations. Narrated in ponderous, poetic prose, the brief text successfully harnesses a range of themes, made potent by the melancholy mix of the Driver’s fear of aging and the lure of romance. Poulin once again shows his knack for grace and nuance. (Nov.)