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Friday, 16 December 2011

TBC: I Hate Hockey

I received an interesting email from a Mr. Peter McCambridge a few weeks back. Mr. McCambridge wanted to know if I'd be willing to review a book that he had been involved in. Of course, Teebz's Book Club is always looking for new literary works to review here on HBIC, so I gladly accepted Mr. McCambridge's offer to review the book. TBC is proud to present I Hate Hockey, written by François Barcelo, translated by Peter McCambridge, and published by Baraka Books. While the title seems like something you'd never hear on HBIC, the book itself was an interesting read. It's not solely about hockey, but hockey has a major theme in the book in terms of the story's twists and turns. While I found myself wanting more hockey action, the story written by M. Barcelo will certainly make some people uncomfortable, but it should stir emotions one way or another.

Born December 4, 1941, François Barcelo is a very accomplished French writer, but he wasn't always an author. M. Barcelo was involved in the world of advertising until 1988, having served as Vice-President of the J. Walter Thompson Company. M. Barcelo has always had the talent of a good writer, though, and this was seen early on when he won a literary prize for young writers from Radio-Canada in Quebec. In 1997, he was nominated for the Governor General's Award for his story The Far Side of the Stones, and has twice won the Literary Grand Prix de la Montérégie for his work in 1999 and 2003. Today, Monsieur Barcelo serves on the board of the Montreal Book Fair, and he continues to add books and stories to the 40 published works that have already been produced.

Peter McCambridge is a professional translator and a serious hockey fan based in Quebec City. He has an MA in Modern Languages from Cambridge University. His MA thesis is on the Montreal Canadiens and popular culture in Quebec.

I Hate Hockey is the story of Antoine Vachon's down-on-his-luck life over a few days. The story takes place in what literally seems like four days of his life, but we learn a great deal about our poor, unfortunate protagonist in this short time. The story contained within the covers of I Hate Hockey is more a crime drama than a hockey story, but there is a major hockey component to the story that allows the mystery to unfold.

We learn that Antoine Vachon is unemployed after the Saturn dealership he was working for is closed by GM. We also learn that he's in the midst of divorce proceedings after he was caught by his wife in bed with her intern after a power outage at a sports bar forced her early return to their home. And we learn that despite Antoine's living in Quebec, he absolutely hates hockey. Colombe, his ex-wife, absolutely loves the Montreal Canadiens, and their son, Jonathan, lives with his mother and plays hockey as well. Needless to say, Antoine doesn't have a very good relationship with them, and his life in general suffers.

The story takes a twist when Antoine receives a phone call from Denis Beauchemin, the president of the Saint-Zéphyrin Sports Association. Mr. Beauchemin calls to beg Antoine to coach his son's hockey team after their former coach, Don Mosian, is found dead outside his home. Of course, Antoine protests this appointment to bench boss since he hates hockey and wants little to do with it, but Mr. Beauchemin eventually talks him into it, and the team is on a bus on their way to Morinville for a game against the Loons.

While the game itself is more an inside look at what's going on in Antoine's brain as he watched the players go through the motions, you can tell that he likes the game despite his insistence that he hates it with all his being. He knows enough that he's knowledgeable, and that can go a long way. But it's after the game at the the hotel that Antoine makes a startling discovery: former coach Don Mosian had been murdered with a baseball bat! And this, of course, starts his mind racing with potential who-done-its and why it may have happened.

I'm definitely not going to tell you anything beyond this point because I Hate Hockey twists and turns in all sorts of different directions after this point in the story. Whether the themes of a broken family trying to mend itself to a man torn in different directions compels you to read this book, one thing is for certain: I Hate Hockey will provoke some emotions to present themselves within the reader.

At one point, I found myself very uncomfortable with where I thought the story was heading, only to find out that Antoine's moral compass points him in the right direction. Needless to say, M. Barcelo has done a good job at evoking emotions, and that's a skill that not a lot of authors can boast. I Hate Hockey certainly is worth reading if you're looking for a good crime story with a hockey element.

While only 100 pages long, I felt that I Hate Hockey really could have played out over a few hundred pages if M. Barcelo had wanted it. Instead, we get a nice story that's easy to read on a plane or trip in the car. The topics and some of the language are more geared for an older audience, however, so I would recommend this book to older teens and adults due to some of the material covered. The story itself is compelling, and it certainly takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and thoughts are you struggle along with Antoine to make sense of his discoveries.

The drama, the story, and incredible twists that I Hate Hockey makes over its 100 pages are worth the read, and, because of these factors, I Hate Hockey certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! This story is not just for the hockey fan, but it's a more general story that can appeal to both male and female readers as it is less about hockey and more about the drama that unfolds because of hockey. Recommended reading if you're a mystery lover!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Peter said...

Thanks so much for the Seal of Approval. I'm glad you enjoyed it! People can also find about more about the book, with contests and the latest reviews, at facebook.com/ihatehockey.

All the best,

Peter McCambridge, translator