Herizons Review - Anatomy of Edouard BeauprÃ©
Reviewed by: Deanna Radford
"But memory is a story the heart tells," writes Sarah Kathryn York, in the voice of protagonist Edouard Beaupre's mother, Florestine. This is an apropos sentiment with which to sum up the spirit of this novel, a fictionalized recreation of the life of a young Metis man who was born in Saskatchewan near the end of the 19th century.
In life, Beaupre was known as a "giant" who grew to be over eight feet tall. He worked as performer and strongman in the circus circuit across North America. Beaupre died at a young age of tuberculosis, and his family did not have the funds to transport his remains home. In death, Beaupre's embalmed body was circulated on display for roughly the first half of the 20th century in service to enterprises that included the circus, a museum and the Universite de Montreal. This was unknown to his family members for many years.
Our point of entry to the story begins there, with a touch of the flesh in a clinical setting. A scientific researcher from Montreal, living well after Beaupre's death, is obsessed with his case. With Beaupre's remains, the researcher discovers the biological conditions leading to his anomalous height and proportions.
The novel depicts the lonely and antagonistic life Beaupre lived. When someone asks, "Were you born a giant?" his interior response is: "I was made one." The story imparts the burden of the body. It depicts the unspoken physical and slavish toll the circus business took on Beaupre's well-being, in spite of his desire to be needed and loved. The story illuminates a fascinating period of Canadian history as well as the difficult social relationship with difference that persists to this day.
York has written a well-researched, sensitive story that pays meaningful tribute to the life and death of the person who was Edouard Beaupre.