Violet Quesnel

26 September 2013

Violet Quesnel: Stories
by Coby Stephenson
Published by Thistledown Press
Review by Jessica Bickford
$9.95 978-1-927068-10-6

Regina author Coby Stephenson’s first book, Violet Quesnel, is at least as unique as her title character’s name. This book of connected short stories peeks in on Violet at various stages in her life, sometimes from Violet’s perspective and sometimes those of her family and friends. The stories seem to drift and shift unreservedly between points of view, periods of time, and physical locations, but the titular character holds everything together in a patchwork of history and growth.

Violet struggles with bi-polar disorder, and this leads to the inevitable conflicts between Violet and her family, and even Violet and herself. She fights for normalcy against crippling bouts of depression and family members who either refuse, or simply fail to understand what she’s up against. In each episode we learn more about Violet and her compulsions, her intrusive thoughts and how she intersects with the lives of those she meets.

This slim volume of stories manages to not only illuminate an extraordinary character, but deftly and realistically navigates the challenges of mental illness as experienced by both Violet herself, and those around her. We see Violet as a daughter, sister, friend, and finally as a mother which becomes not only the most challenging role for her, but ultimately the most rewarding.

Violet Quesnel is honest, engaging and skillfully written in a way that draws you into Violet’s life immediately and unreservedly. If you have ever had a brush with mental illness, either yourself or someone close to you, Stephenson’s stories will grip you.


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