Book 37, Armand Durand (1868) – Rosanna Leprohon
Paul Durand, a well-off farmer living in the fictional seigneurie of Alonville on the bank of the St. Lawrence, has two sons, each by a different wife (he is made a widower twice). They go off to school in Montreal where one flourishes and the other wishes to be back working outside on the farm. Sibling rivalry and a bad marriage play out against the backdrop of village and urban societies.
From the introduction:
“Obviously this novel demonstrated new interests on the part of the author. It appeared in a period of innovation. Novelists in Britain, America, and Europe were experimenting with problem novels. Mrs. Gaskell’s sombre novels were supplanting Dickens’ more humourous accounts of family and class relations–but even Dickens had turned from his early Pickwick style to the darker tones of Hard Times–a novel about industrial strikes, drunkenness, and family breakdown. In the 1860s Turgenev and Flaubert, Meredith and Melville were opening new avenues in their fiction. Mrs. Leprohon’s 1868 story reflects the changing concerns of contemporary novelists.”
Other useful links:
the Wikipedia entry for Rosanna Leprohon
Armand Durand was quite distinct from Antoinette de Mirecourt. Where the latter novel had a rather tight plot contained within a relatively short period of time and with no extraneous subplots, this one is meandering, biographical, and takes place over the course of two generations. As well, Antoinette was more in the style of the previous century whereas Armand Durand has a stronger sense of realism. I quite liked this novel with all of its character studies set against the backdrop of Quebec society. Armand is likable, Delima is annoying, but not as annoying as Mrs. Martel. Armand’s marrying the wrong girl followed by the right girl after the first girl made him a widower reminded me a bit of David Copperfield, though Armand never loved his first wife and the reasons why Delima was unsuitable were far different. The only difficulty I had with the characters was with Paul fils. It seems so odd for him to suddenly turn so jealous of Armand so as to manipulate his dying father to cut Armand out of the will and to try to fix it so that their father would die without seeing Armand again. It’s such a cruel thing to do and there was no real reason for it (I mean it’s not like Paul senior favoured Armand and neglected his other son). Though interesting, the little subplot about Genevieve and de Chevandier was a little strange. It was like a setup for a further story that was later dropped. I couldn’t help but think that may have been due to the original serialisation—in fact this could be a cause of much of the unevenness of the novel.