REVIEW: The Hockey Sweater & Other Stories by Roch Carrier & Translated by Sheila Fischman

Published: 1st January 1979

Publisher: A List

Pages: 152

Format: Ebook (purchased)

RRP: $14.44

3.5/5 Stars

The Hockey Sweater, the title story in this 20-story collection, has become an enduring classic: a Quebec boy and Habs fan is shipped a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater by mistake. It encapsulates everything you need to understand French and English Canada, told with humour and love. This edition features a new introduction written by Dave Bidini.

 

When Kayla @Booksandlala announced the Read-Eh-Thon (Canadian readathon) I immediately went looking for some books to read. I stumbled across The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories by Roch Carrier and translated by Sheila Fischman and really enjoyed this short story anthology.

 

Short story anthologies are not normally my thing. I usually find the stories undeveloped because they are so short, lacking because characters aren’t developed, and just rushed. Alternatively, I fall in love with one story and want it to be a full-sized novel, only to get whiplash when the story ends and we move quickly into a completely unrelated story.

 

Much to my surprise, The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories didn’t read like other anthologies I’d experience before. The writing was concise, witty and at times often sarcastic with a great deal of damage unleashed on its characters. I was both intrigued by Carrier’s writing, and so engaged with the stories that it was incredibly jarring when they needed still, and yet I really enjoyed his quick turn of phrases and plot twists. I really, really enjoyed this anthology.

 

Each of the stories included in this anthology are short, snappy and pack one hell of a punch with their endings. Time-after-time I thought I knew where Carrier was taking us, only for a brief-phrase or one-liner completely throwing the entire story into a new (and better) direction. His endings were witty, smart, sarcastic and just oh so unexpected.

 

…never had anyone in my village ever worn the Toronto sweater, never had we even seen a Toronto Maple… (The Hockey Sweater)

 

Each of twenty stories in the anthology feature snapshots of Canadian lives. Usually, they dwell around the same small town and were heavily inspired by Carrier’s own experiences. To this end, the title story is said to be based on Carrier’s own experiences when his mother gave him the wrong team’s hockey sweater. Each story and its small-town attitudes and experiences could quite easily be a reflection of many universal moments the world over, and yet there is a distinctly Canadian, especially French-Canadian, feel to his stories that you instantly recognise and understand instinctively.

 

… it isn’t what’s on your back that counts, it’s what you’ve got inside your head … ( The Hockey Sweater)

 

Predominately the stories feature French-Canadians who don’t understand English or are forced to interact with English speaking people, often to comedic ends such as the wrong bear being captured and brought into the circus. I really enjoyed this bi-lingual aspect of the stories, as it gave me insight into a side of the culture that I haven’t personally experienced or seen a lot about in my exposure to Canada.

 

I struggled to choose what to rate this anthology as. Individually, there are some five-star stories in here – Idiot Death ; The Day I became An Apostate; The Hockey Sweater just to name a few –  others, however, didn’t quite gel with me as much, and thus the overall rating of the anthology was brought down to a 3.5-star rating. All of that said, if you were looking for a slice of life anthology to get you started on Canadian literature, I would highly recommend this gem.

 

The Hockey Sweater & Other Stories by Roch Carrier and translated by Sheila Fischman won the Grand Prix Du Livre De Montréal in 1980.

For the Read-Eh-Thon (Canadian based readathon) The Hockey Sweater & Other Stories marked off the following prompts:

  • A book set ina  province or territory you haven’t been to (I’ve only visited Toronto and Niagara Falls)
  • A Canadian Children’s book = The title story is also published as a standalone picture book, so that counts right?
  • A book set in a province or territory you have been too = one or two of the short stories mention and visit Toronto.
  • A Canadian Book Award Nominee =  it won the Grand Prix Du Livre De Montréal in 1980, this award is Montreal based publishing award.
  • Something that is not a novel = it’s an anthology of short stories.

 

To purchase a copy of, visit the following online retailers:

 AMAZON AUS | AMAZON USABARNES & NOBLEBOOK DEPOSITORY 

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