February 14, 2008

Our Life With The Rocket

Roch Carrier is a successful novelist and playwright but he is famous (and undoubtedly rich!) for his quintessential children's hockey book The Hockey Sweater.

But if you ask me, his most important title has to be Our Life With The Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story.

This book is neither a biography nor a memoir of Quebec's greatest hockey player. No in fact it is in many ways a thoroughly researched and infectiously proud all grown up version of The Hockey Sweater. It's about what it was like to be French Canadian at a time when the Rocket was hockey's most dynamic player.

In many ways it is more a story of Carrier's youth than Rocket's exploits. But Carrier's youth is mirrored by countless other Quebecers who experienced the same social and political circumstances. Richard was the bigger-than-life albeit inadvertent super hero who came to symbolize Quebecers plight.

This is what the back of the book says:

"Roch Carrier captures a world in which a brooding, taciturn athlete, who hated to speak publicly and rarely expressed opinions on anything, became a powerful, enduring symbol for French Canadians at a time when they felt painfully vulnerable amid Canada's English majority."

The Vancouver Sun nailed the book review when they said:

"In orchestrating the saga of Rocket Richard, (Carrier) composes the epic of his people's and his own coming of age, interpolating these refrains so ingeniously that they become a single."

But no one said it better than the Montreal Gazette:

"...this is much deeper than a hockey book - it's a profound social and political history, a study of a turbulent time as much as a game and one of its most charismatic players...."

Unless you were French Canadian and grew up in the era, it is almost impossible to truly appreciate the transcendent legacy of Rocket Richard. This book comes as close as possible.

If anyone wonders why more than 100,000 people filed through the Molson Centre to see the Rocket lying in state, this book should explain everything.

This book should even be read by non-hockey fans who are seeking a better understanding Quebec, the Quiet Revolution, and the separatist movement.

Bottom line - it is incredibly rare that a hockey book could be termed as important and essential.
Carrier's Our Life With The Rocket is perhaps the only one.

3 comments:

Eighty-Two February 20, 2008 at 5:33 PM  

This is easily one of my favourite books. Glad to see a review on your site!

justsomereader,  February 22, 2008 at 8:11 PM  

Was wondering where the first quote on the book came from. I went for my copy but it must be the Quebec edition. It has translations of French rave reviews on it.

When I read it I heard Peter Gzowski's voice for some reason.

John,  July 14, 2010 at 8:18 PM  

Well, I'm half way thru this book and I find myself somewhat disappointed. It started out well enough, and Carrier is a fine writer. But he seems to be following every season individually and chronologically ... and its all the same, and more of the same. Richard broods and attacks his opponents. Carrier throws in the odd factoid or anecdote to validate the section. Life is not fair for French Canadians. They are a little people, but live big through Richard. He must win! Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. Damn the English hockey opponents (Toronto) and the factory bosses and team owners and Campbell. Repeat the same narrative season after season. And the few interesting sociological observations are framed thru the eyes of the young Carrier, so they don't really pack much of a punch anyways. Like I said, I'm pretty disappointed, and may put the book down. It would have made a great long "short story" or novella. What a shame ... (I grew up in Montréal with the Habs of the 1970s, the Stanley Cup was our inheritance.)

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