8 great novels set in Montreal

If reading Bone and Bread has inspired you to read more novels set in "La Belle Ville", check out our list of 8 more fantastic books set in Montreal.

One of our Cityline Book Club‘s favourite things about our current pick, Saleema Nawaz’s Bone and Bread, is how wonderfully she captures the city of Montreal in her writing. From language politics to bagel shops, Nawaz’s setting was so detailed and beautifully realized, that sometimes it felt like there were four main characters in the novel: Beena, Sadhana, Quinn, and Montreal. If reading Bone and Bread has inspired you to read more novels set in “La Belle Ville”, check out our list of 8 more fantastic books set in Montreal. (The starred picks were suggested by Nawaz herself!)

Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: While all of Richler’s Montreal-set stories would be perfect picks for this list, we’re partial to his fourth novel, which takes place in Montreal during the 1940s and focuses on issues of race, religion, and class.

* Heather O’Neill, Lullabies for Little CriminalsMontreal is the backdrop for O’Neill’s hard-hitting tale about Baby, a 12-year-old girl who becomes a prostitute and heroin addict at a young age after the death of her mother and abandonment by her father.

Zoe Whittall, Bottle Rocket HeartsSet in the months leading up to the 1995 Referendum in Montreal, this critically-acclaimed queer coming-of-age story features themes of self-discovery, the development of personal identity, and the craziness of being in love.

Gabrielle Roy, The Tin Flute: This Classic Canadian novel (originally published in French as Bonheur d’occasion) focuses on a poor family living in the Saint-Henri slums of Montreal in 1940, and is regarded as a key novel in laying the foundation for Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in the 1960s.

* Alice Zorn, ArrythmiaSet during the height of Y2K paranoia, this debut novel follows the intertwined lives of five Montrealers as they navigate the complex relationships in their lives.

* Rawi Hage, CockroachThis critically-acclaimed dark comedy follows an immigrant man who moves to Montreal from the Middle East and struggles to accept the poverty he is forced into there.

Emily St. John Mandel, Last Night in Montreal: Love, amnesia, and the nature of obsession run throughout this gritty debut novel that is, naturally, set in the city named in its title.

*Gwethalyn Graham, Earth and High HeavenThis winner of the 1944 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction is a story of human relationships, focusing on a couple who is confronted by racial intolerance.

Have you ever read a novel where the setting was so well described that you felt like you were right there, too? Tell us about them in the comments!

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I’ve just finished the book, Echo from Mount Royal, which takes place in Montreal in 1952-3. The novel vividly recreates that period of time in Montreal after WWII. A brief synopsis from the cover:
A girl, Rebecca Wiseman, is from a working class, Catholic-Jewish family in Outremont. A chance meeting with Sol Gottesman, the handsome son of a wealthy Westmount businessman, begins an affair fulfilling the romantic dreams she’s always had. His wealth introduces her to a world of upper-class privilege she’s never known. But when class, sexual inexperience and family secrets test their love, Rebecca struggles to control events with humor and compassion. When the couple visits a cabin in the Laurentian Mountains, a shocking revelation changes her life forever.
The character of Rebecca – ambitious, stubborn, trustful and forgiving – comes alive as she learns that life is not always what it seems. It’s a coming-of-age story with an unexpected twist. A great read for a women’s reading group.

March 02, 2015 at 6:55 pm

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