Douglas Glover, Elle (Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2003), 205pp. Paper. $21.95. ISBN 0-8649-2315-5.
Elle is thoroughly readable yet you hear the sound of narrative rules breaking in the distance like waves on the banks of the St Lawrence. Elle, the central character is based on the real story of Marguerite de Roberval, marooned in the Gulf of St Lawrence in the 1540s. 'Otherwise I have tried to mangle and distort the facts as best I can', says Glover in his introduction (p. 7). Such imaginative mangling takes a lot of work.
The central question is 'what to do with a headstrong girl?' In part the novel is about how Canada wears away Elle's strong head; about how the extreme conditions break down a youthful personality into a wiser one.
The story opens with her 'aroused beyond all reckoning' - she's making love in a ship's cabin on a spumy sea. The book is refreshing in its lusty, taboobreaking approach to sex and life. The male gaze attaches itself to Elle more than once, but doesn't detract from the pleasure. …