Historian and professor Jean-Pierre Charland paints a very interesting portrait of the mores of Montreal society at the end of the 1930s in his brand new series, The Caron pension. Describing Montreal after a never-ending crisis, it shows, through colorful characters, how people were trying to get out of the game, somehow. “Dating” was regimented, coded, and quite complex at the time!
In 1937, Louis Bujold had to do like other singles of the time when he left Ottawa to find work in Montreal. He moved into a boarding house run by the widow Cédulie Caron and her daughter Précile, still without a date at 30. Her life revolves around her work in a life insurance company, under the watchful eye of women who dream of a “good party.”
Jean-Pierre Charland shows with finesse and humor just how strained social relations could be at that time. “The real change will come in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As far as mentalities go, it’s still as cliché as it was 30 years earlier,” he notes.
Love and money
He wanted to cover a lot of themes in this new series, including the constraints of money, the notion of “lost woman”, “good conveniences” and the “marriage market”.
“We are not so used these days to subject romantic relationships to economic conditions. But at the time, given that there was no aid program, people were hit very hard. The company will be on hiatus. The mentalities of the time were very harsh and very intolerant. “
The novelist explains that it was common in those days for single people to move into boarding houses when living in the city. In his novel, one has the feeling that he lifts a piece of the curtain to allow his readers to see how things were going. And it’s fun!
“It was not possible to settle alone. Everything was much more complicated. Washing, cooking, it was much more complicated than it is today: you didn’t go to IGA in the prepared food department to take a little supper home! When a man lives alone and nobody starts cooking dinner for him at 2:30 in the afternoon, well, he won’t eat in the evening. There is no alternative. Either we live in a pension, or we live in a room, with access to a restaurant. “
He likes the “microcosm” effect of the pension. “These are people who come from diverse backgrounds. Remember the dynamics of The Pension Velder at Radio-Canada: it looks a lot like the one at the Caron pension. The last TV show where there was a boarding house was Symphorian. It was a real pension with the traditional model. “
People lived in boarding houses before getting married, he says. “The idea of the boarding house as I present it in my novel is like a small inn lifestyle, after all. We stay and eat, a bit like a bed and breakfast. In the countryside, people also had boarders: a single tenant who lived within the family. It was done a lot in the countryside. Louis Hémon lived with farmers. ”
A short-term failure!
In addition, Jean-Pierre Charland applied a horse remedy for anxiety that caused him a small writing failure during confinement: work. This year, he will publish four novels! “Since I can’t do anything else, I’m writing!”
“Every Saturday night spent in the pension lounge was a failure for singles. In the countryside, the inhabitants took their baths so as not to stink the next day at high mass. A nice touch for the priest. In the city, everyone invited their each to the restaurant, to the cinema. The most daring would go dancing or attend a show in a cabaret. ”
- Jean-Pierre Charland holds a doctorate in history and another in didactics.
- He has published numerous successful series, including The Doors of Quebec, The Years of Lead, Le Clan Picard and The Roaring Years.
- Volume 2 will be released in November and Volume 3 in February 2021.
- He wrote a anticipation novel due out in the spring of 2021, Covid 23, about a librarian and his dog.