I have read all of Richler’s novels and consider most to be masterpieces. However, it’s been awhile since reading one and, whist immediately accepting that he should be included in this ‘extraordinary Canadians’ series before I began reading this biography, I found myself surprisingly distanced from the man and even questioning his inclusion about half way through. Perhaps it was being reminded of inconsistencies with many preconceived ideas: his time spent in London (a significantly different environment from Montreal), the knowledge of difficult personal relationships (with his parents, his brother, his first wife etc); sending his children to convent/private schools etc. However, as biographer Vassanji notes in the latter half of the book, “Canada needs a vanguard against mediocrity” & Richler, with his honest, exuberant, self confident, witty, often controversial, indominable style uniquely and unflinchingly provided this - both in his novels and in his various other writings (essays, newspaper articles etc.). Vassanji argues convincingly that Richler significantly broadened the scope of Canadian fiction by writing so passionately and well about immigrants’, specifically Jewish, search for a modern identity in a françaphone environment, itself a unique culture within a predominantly Anglo country.
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