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by Ann Decter

Ann Decter’s second novel, Honour, tells the stories of three friends in the midst of self-discovery. Honour is a feminist melting pot from which Decter pulls her characters Marie, Jane, and Shulamit Weiss and molds them into a friendship that holds the plot in place while the women wrestle with their demons. Decter introduced the trio in her first book, Paper, Scissors, Rock (1992) in which Jane was coming of age. In Honour, we see Jane writing her master’s thesis about her mother and the NDP, while her two friends fall in love on the coast.

The matrilineal search for history, the search for mothers and family, is a poignant one for post-second-wave feminist daughters; it is this idea that drives Decter’s novel and that ultimately keeps the reader interested. However, the women’s lives often seem more like symbols of 20th-century tragedies than lives of real people. Marie, of Métis ancestry, was conceived of a rape by a Catholic priest, and Shulamit wrestles with her family’s loss in the Holocaust. Their dialogue is expository; it moves information rather than creating relationships. Conversations do not much resemble everyday ways of talking. They are further undermined by what they say: in an attempt to illustrate how comfortable the friends are together, Decter has them shortening their words: “second” becomes “sec’,” “Marie” becomes “ ‘Rie,” etc., stilting the dialogue. Descriptions of crises, such as Shulamit’s memory of her lover Gloria’s murder, are forced and melodramatic. The murdered woman seems to represent harassed and threatened women rather than being one herself. Throughout the book, emotion is awkwardly rendered, so that most experiences, but especially the very politicized ones, fail to convey the appropriate distress and outrage. So heavy is the responsibility to articulate and resolve their histories – enormous histories, brutal histories – that the characters teeter and careen, sometimes captivating the reader, sometimes alienating her.

An ambitious, though in the end unsuccessful, attempt.


Reviewer: Joelle Hann

Publisher: Press Gang


Price: $16.95

Page Count: 208 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-88974-057-7

Released: May

Issue Date: 1996-5

Categories: Fiction: Novels