What a lovely book.... Marie-Claire Blais is a very young French-Canadian writer whose several previous novels have appeared there, and in France, and the first thing to be said about this one is that while it deals with the hopeless poverty of an apparently limitless peasant family, close to the soil and ground down into it, it has none of the lumbering seriousness of the tractarian novel. Here on the farm, where girls are in the fields by the time they're fourteen, or the boys have drifted into wayward pursuits, there's always a child under a bed or a table or the skirt of an indomitable grandmother. Grand-Mere has spent years ""taming a tide of children"" who are as often numbers as names. Emmanuel is about the sixteenth who has survived the winters ""as black as death"" and he may last until spring when they come out spotted with measles or lice. Then there's Heloise, recently returned from the convent to fast in her room, and eventually going off to work in the ""firmament of lust"" of the local brothel; Pomme, on a first job in a factory where he loses several fingers; Number Seven, a scamp, who obviously will end up nowhere; and above all, Jean-Le-Maigre, a consumptive, who really doesn't want to die but doesn't altogether repudiate the notion that he will soon be flying around in the sky like a dove. Over them all hovers Grand-Mere, an imperious, impregnable woman with a heart for all these surrogate children of hers, some whose names are already dim, others who like Jean-Le-Maigre are indeed immortal... Somehow Mlle. Blais manages to oppose and offset an unyielding realism with imagination, humor and a carnal innocence. Her book succeeds, incomparably, in capturing not only an existence but a sense of life.