Both touched by people's outpouring of solidarity and by the fallout from the sinking of the liner Empress of Ireland off Rimouski in 1914, the novelist Sonia Alain was inspired by these historical facts to build a period novel full of twists and turns. Through Aimeline Beaupré, in love with a handsome Scotsman, she brings Métis-sur-Mer to life at the beginning of the 20th century and the torments of a century that difficult announcement.
Sonia Alain transports her readers to Métis in May 1914. The good people of Métis and the surrounding area do not expect to experience a tragedy of great magnitude: that of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. The steamer, which left Quebec, en route to Liverpool, England, sank in a few minutes after being rammed by the Norwegian collier Storstad. The collision will cause the death of 1012 people.
Aimeline Beaupré, a beautiful 18-year-old girl, lives in the shadow of her capricious and frivolous sister, Violette. More reserved than her eldest, she swooned over a flamboyant Scotsman, Darren McNeil. Aimeline will be confronted with this tragedy, but also with the departure of Darren to Montreal, where he will work on the maintenance of the Victoria Bridge.
Sonia Alain reveals to be passionate about the Métis region and the history of the Empress of Ireland. “I am from Matane. My parents are from Rimouski. Every year, my partner and I go to the end of Sainte-Luce and Métis for a week to recharge our batteries by the sea and live to the rhythm of the waves, she said in an interview. It is a region that is in my blood. If it weren't so cold, I would live there all year round.
She points out that a lot has happened in this area that people, in general, don't know about. “When I was young, I picked up scraps of tableware polished by the sea, with patterns, on the beach at Sainte-Luce. Like the sinking of the Empresshappened off Sainte-Luce, for me, they were treasures: pieces that came from the Empress. »
Sonia Alain adds that the sinking of the liner is a story that has always rocked her and that she has known for a long time. “I often go to the museum, in Pointe-au-Père. The entire Métis region, at the time, was a popular seaside resort. It is a part of the story that is part of my roots. I said to myself: as long as I write historical novels, why not make people discover all these little things, all these events, all these places that are not well known and which are, for me, super important? »
The writer notes that at the time there was a great mobilization of people from the Rimouski region, who welcomed and cared for the survivors of the Empress. “It was huge, what was happening. But the war started at the same time and it kind of fell into oblivion, even though it was two years after the Titanic, because there were no big names and that it was not the maiden departure. But it happened in our river! »
In the second volume, scheduled for the end of April, Sonia Alain takes up the story, from the point of view of Esther and Elliott, Darren's brother, going off to war.
“He was at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was something, for the Canadians. We see all that this brings and we see more of the effects on the men who returned wounded from the front. Esther goes to Montreal to see something else in life. »
♦ Sonia Alain lives in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
♦ She has written several period novels, including Love in the Time of the Hundred Years War.
♦ The second volume of the series Au gré des vents, Esther, will be published on April 27.