Heather O’Neill

A book that influenced me and why: A Season in the Life of Emmanuel by Marie-Claire Blais

The novel takes place in a squalid home in rural Quebec. It’s the middle of winter and the sixteenth child in the family has just been born. The other children are crammed into their beds together at night, sent to sleep hungry, having been promised terrible futures. Their father doesn’t even know why they should learn to read seeing as they are poor and are not meant for grand things. But one of the adolescent boys is a poet and a pervert and a genius. He has these marvellous and holy and hilarious perspectives on his family and his world. Even though he has tuberculosis and is dying, he records his obsessive tributes to life in his notebooks. He finds so much radiant light in the dark home.

I read this book when I was a very young teenager. I read indiscriminately back then, randomly picking up books from the library shelves, not knowing what to expect. It was a beautiful thing to me when I discovered one that moved me deeply. It was like biting into a chocolate and finding that I had chosen the one with the cherry inside it.

Poetry is everywhere! That’s what I felt when I held the skinny paperback novel in my hands.

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