Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for We Were The Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard, and I’ll be sharing an extract with you all. First though, here is all of the bookish information you will need!
About the author:
Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds. This desire for intimacy permeates all of Roxanne’s novels, as well as her play, J’t’aime encore, and her published essays, which have focused on the human aspects and impacts of the military. In 2013, the publication of her private correspondence with Corporal Patrick Kègle, entitled En terrain miné, started quite the conversation.
This thought-provoking discussion about the need for weapons was a stepping-stone for Roxanne to undertake unprecedented research at Quebec’s largest military base. Meeting and speaking with dozens of women and men who served in Afghanistan in 2009 inspired her to write a collection of hard-hitting short stories, Cinq balles dans la tête, slated for publication in autumn 2017.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is Roxanne Bouchard’s fifth novel, and the first to be translated into English. As much a love story and a nostalgic tale as it is a crime novel, it was shortlisted for a number of crime fiction and maritime literature awards in Quebec and France. It haunts people’s memories, ties seafarers’ hearts in knots and seeps its way into every nook and cranny, but most importantly, the sea in this book is a calling for us all to set our sails to the wind. Roxanne Bouchard is currently writing an essay on literary creativity and plotting Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès’s next investigation.
About the book:
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…
Published by Orenda Books, click HERE to order your copy!
Dredgers and trawlers
‘Well, let me tell you, mam’zelle, that hotel and bar over by Caplan
beach – burned to the ground, it did!’
He opened the dishwasher too early, allowing a scalding cloud
of steam to escape. He slammed it shut again and turned to me.
Leaning over the counter, he tried to catch a glimpse of the letter
from Key West I had reopened to remind myself what it said, but I
pulled it away.
‘And let me tell you, quite the fire it was and all! The whole village
came out for a ganders in the middle of the night. Folks even came
up from Saint-Siméon and Bonaventure to see! I made the most of
it and opened up the bistro. It didn’t let up for two days! The flames
were licking all up the walls, and bed springs were popping all over
the place. Had the firemen running around in circles, it did! You
should’ve seen the ashes all over the beach! And let me tell you, it all
went up in smoke! The hotel, the bar, even the slot machines! You’re
not too disappointed, I hope?’
I smiled. If I’d driven for ten hours to feed the slots at the Caplan
beach hotel, then yes, I probably would have been disappointed.
‘Over there, see? It was just the other side of the church – a bit
further west. But now there’s nothing left of it. Must’ve been about
two months ago, I’d say. Everyone knows what happened. I can’t
believe you didn’t hear about it – it made the front page in the Bay
Echo. They even did a special feature about it, with colour pages and
everything! They say it was probably arson, and the insurance won’t
pay up. Cases like this, they’re always looking to point the finger. But
let me tell you, it’s funny they told you to go sleep there, you know…’
I checked the date. The letter had been mailed from Key West
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two months ago. I put it back in my bag. I had nothing to hide, but
nothing to say either. He cleared away my leftover pizza, tossed it
into the bin and took a step to the side, not entirely satisfied.
‘Let me tell you just one thing, the best place to stay is at Guylaine’s,
right here, just across the way. You’ll be a lot more comfortable
there than up at the hotel that burned down!’
Keeping his distance this time, he opened the dishwasher again,
which was still rumbling away. He picked up a red-chequered tea
towel and started flapping the steam away like a matador struggling
to tame a mad bull. Then, brimming with local pride, with the tip of
his chin he pointed out a big house to the east of the bistro, nestled
against the cliffside, looking out to sea in quiet contemplation. A
charming auberge that promised a warm welcome.
‘It’s the finest one around! Quiet too. Guylaine doesn’t have kids
or a husband. And further down, over there, that’s the fishermen’s
wharf and the Café du Havre is right alongside. If it’s fishermen you
want to meet, you should go there for breakfast mid-morning, when
they come back in. Guylaine will be out for her walk right now, but
she’s sure to stop by later. She always comes in to say hello.’
He visibly softened. Without thinking, he picked up a scalding
glass, juggled with it then flung it onto the counter like a curse. He
gazed out towards the auberge again, then turned to me with a sigh.
‘How about a coffee while you’re waiting?’
I’ve never really liked those bed and breakfasts where you’re
expected to make chit-chat, tell people who you are, where you’re
from, where you’re going and how long you’re staying, and listen to
the owners spouting on about their country-home renovations. But
it sounded like I might as well forget about finding another hotel
around here, and I’d never been one for camping, so Guylaine’s was
beginning to look like my only option.
He cleared my plate and empty glass away and placed a mug on the
counter in front of me before charging back for more, index finger
pointed questioningly at my bag. ‘If you’re looking for someone
around here, I can probably help.’
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12 roxanne bouchard
I hesitated. Swivelled my chair around to face the other end of the
bistro. As I recall, the sea was the only thing on my mind right then.
The thick smell of it. The breakwater darkening into shadow, ready
to slip beneath the heavy blanket of night. With no lights out here,
how much could you see along this coast?
‘Let me tell you just one thing, though, I know plenty of folk
I still didn’t have the words to talk about her. She had always been
unpronounceable; but now, all of a sudden, I had to casually drop
this woman’s name into conversation. Should I roll it seven times on
the tip of my tongue, swish it around my mouth like a vintage wine
or crush it with my molars to soften it?
‘Spit it out, then. Who are you looking for?’
I figured I’d have to get used to the name, for a while anyway. Put
on a brave face and add it to my vocabulary at least, if not my family
tree. So for the first time, contemplating the sea, I said it. I took a
deep breath in and let it all out.
‘Marie Garant. Do you know her?’
He recoiled. All the sparkle in his face fizzled out, as if I’d blown
out a candle. Suddenly on his guard, he looked at me suspiciously.
‘She a friend of yours?’
‘No. I don’t actually know her.’
He picked up the glass again and started rubbing the heck out
‘Phew! You had me worried there. Because let me tell you, that
Marie Garant, she’s no woman to get close to. Especially not you, if
you’re a tourist that is. I wouldn’t go around shouting about her if
you want to make any friends around here.’
‘But you’re not from around here, so you weren’t to know, of
‘No, I wasn’t.’
‘Is she the reason you’re here?’
‘Er … No.’ It was barely a lie. ‘I’m on holiday.’
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‘Ah! So you are a tourist! Well then, welcome! I’m Renaud. Renaud
Boissonneau, dean of students at the high school and businessman
with business aplenty!’
‘Er, pleased to meet you.’
‘Let me tell you, we’ll take good care of you. How did you like the
pizza? Most of the tourists haven’t arrived yet – this place is usually
full of them. That’s right, it’s always packed here. People think it’s
nice and rustic. Did you see the decor? This place has history, let me
tell you. Because you might not have noticed, but we’re in the old
rectory. That’s why the church is right next door! The patio wraps all
the way around, so anyone who wants to avert their eyes from the
steeple while they’re drinking their beer can go and look at the sea
or the fisherman’s wharf instead. Oh, and the curate lives upstairs.
Which means, let me tell you, that when you’ve had a couple of
drinks and you’re ready to confess your sins, you can just go right
Having successfully tamed the dishwasher, he was now noisily
unloading some mercifully unbreakable plates.
‘I do pretty much everything around here, I do. How about that
decor? … See. I was the one who did it all. Let me tell you, I brought
up everything I could find in the basement. See how original it is?
There’s wagon wheels up on the ceiling with oil lamps hanging from
them, clogs, little wooden birdhouses, tools, saws, cables and rope,
and I hung some old oilskins in the corner. Do you need a rain
jacket? I suppose it’s been a nice day today. But it has rained a lot the
last little while, don’t you think?’
‘I hadn’t noticed.’
‘Ah, a city girl!’
As if the distance gave him permission to confide in me, he leaned
in to whisper something. ‘And let me tell you, I do all the decor, wait
tables and wash the dishes, but you’ll never guess what – soon I’m
going to be cook’s helper as well! At fifty-three! Never too old to be
young again, mam’zelle!’
He straightened up and slammed the dishwasher shut again.
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‘Everything you see over there, it’s all from our place. That globe,
them old cameras, the marine charts, the grandfather clock, the twohanded
saw, the horseshoes. Do we say horseshoes or horse’s shoes?
Let me tell you, I reckon you can say either. Oh, and them bottles,
the clay pots, them mismatched mugs, even the recipe books! So
tell me, which way did you come? Through the valley or round the
‘Er, through the valley.’
‘Good on you, not going out of your way for nothing!’
He rubbed the counter like he was trying to make his rag all dizzy.
‘Out of my way for nothing?’
‘The point! Percé, the Northern Gannets, Bonaventure Island …
talk about going out of your way for nothing, mam’zelle! Think you
want to go there?’
‘I don’t know. I haven’t made any plans yet.’
‘Because we just got some tourist brochures in today! I haven’t
read through them yet, but … Ah! If it isn’t the fair Guylaine herself!’
All at once, he flung the rag away into the sink as if he had dirt
on his hands.
Guylaine Leblanc, to look at her, must have been at least sixtyfive.
With salt-and-pepper hair pulled up into a loose bun, she had
about her that air of goodness that grandmothers in American family
movies exude. She laughed tenderly with a twinkle in her eye for
Renaud, who was clearly putty in her hands.
‘Have you met our new tourist, Guylaine? What was your name
‘Day. Catherine Day.’
‘Catherine Day wants to stay at yours; you have a room for her,
Renaud kissed Guylaine on both cheeks and then she walked me
over to her sewing shop, Le Point de Couture, on the south side of
Highway 132, where she sold clothes and did alterations. The auberge
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was at the rear of the shop, well away from any road noise. The
vast ground floor was decorated in the same fashion as Renaud’s
bistro with a surprisingly comforting hodgepodge of antiques and
easy chairs, and there was a deep veranda overlooking the shore.
Guylaine had three rooms for tourists upstairs; she must have slept
somewhere at the top of the staircase that led to the attic. She gave
me a room facing the sea – her favourite, she said – all decked out
in white and blue, with driftwood trim and a hand-stitched quilt on
the bed. It was a very nice room.
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