My review will follow after the publisher’s blurb.
It is autumn, 1997 and Kate Thuringer is back in her hometown to help her college-age daughter settle into her new life. A professional photographer, Kate has lived in Western Canada for nearly three decades. Before her marriage, however, she survived a turbulent year in which Québécois terrorists kidnapped a British diplomat and murdered an innocent politician. The middle-aged Kate is obsessed with the past, particularly with the memory of a poor francophone student with whom she had been involved during the historic October Crisis. Back in Montreal, she is plunged into a mid-life crisis, struggling to reconcile her romantic past and her melancholy present. The House on Selkirk Avenue is a complex novel about obsessive love, family bonds, aging, and the impact of political events on innocent people’s lives.
Isn’t it a curious thing how a book drops into your lap at a certain point in your life…. Like it knew it was needed.
I’d like to think I picked out The House on Selkirk Avenue because I wanted to read something set close to home. Perhaps, The House On Selkirk Avenue chose me. It turned out to be a read that was certainly introspective. If I would have read this book in my 20’s, I don’t think I would have liked it yet, approaching my mid 40’s… I connected with Kate in so many ways.
I loved meeting Kate, I think she is a character that will hang around in my mind for years to come. As she revisits her past, I felt a kinship with her that I can’t explain. It is this exploration that tugs at my heart. While reading it, I couldn’t help explore my own. I loved that Irena Karafilly entwines places with bits of longing.
Another reason I felt so attached to Kate; she’s a photographer (I’m a photographer). She sees the world through her lens and I loved the way she describes photography. I’ve often been at a loss for words when trying to explain my passion.. now I have complete passages highlighted !
I also loved how Irena Karafilly navigates the changing relationship with Kate’s daughter. It happens in a blink of an eye, how our children become adults and the relationship changes. This is something I’m going through right now.
Even though this book hinges on events that occurred during the October Crisis in Quebec, that wasn’t what kept me turning pages. More so, it is Kate’s obsession with her past. There were times where I was like; “Woman, be a grown up and get on with it !!”… but the past is a very seductive place when it’s kept within the confines of our own mind. We get to a certain age and it seems inevitable to look back, it’s seductive; all the “what ifs”. However, knowing relatively nothing of the October Crisis I read up on the subject quite a bit after reading The House On Selkirk Avenue.
Oh, and the ending ! Even if I did find it absolutely maddening, I loved it. Throughout the novel, I couldn’t help wonder; Will she meet Guillaume? How will they meet ? Is he married ? Does he still feel anything for her ? All these questions come hurtling to an ending I wasn’t expecting.
The House On Selkirk Avenue is an honest look at one woman’s obsession with a past she hasn’t let go of yet and would make a great book club read !!
I highly recommend listening to Irena Karafilly’s interview on the CBC here : Interview
The House On Selkirk Avenue published by Guernica Editions, available now
An e-copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.