I began reading this masterpiece around this time last year for my History of Montreal class (HIST-307 with Dr. Gossage at Con-U if you’re interested, I highly recommend it) and I could not advocate a better, more thoroughly researched study on the linguistic political battles that have so coloured Quebec and Montreal society since the dawn of the Quiet Revolution.
For the purposes of full disclosure, this is not a novel, nor pop history. It is an in-depth analysis of the rise of Quebec Separatism, how Bill 101 came to pass, and how that law, unpopular as it might be in certain circles, may have ultimately prevented Quebec independence, possibly forever.
A great deal has changed since the book was first published. In fact, it surprised me. I thought I knew this history particularly well, but I was quite mistaken. There’s a world of subtlety, nuance and intrigue Levine was able to weave into a complex sociological study. And he provides just about all the pertinent statistical information you’d ever want to read with regards to the linguistic battles that ultimately created Bill 101 as protector and preserver of the French language in Montreal.
Almost twenty years after the publication of Reconquest, Marc Levine’s sober analysis still holds a lot of weight, though his predictions have been tested time and again. Nowadays, with separatism on the decline and the PQ in near-total disarray, it may seem like a book of this nature (and provocative title) may be out-of-step. I would caution against such thinking – this is after all a book dedicated to a difficult area of study – recent Canadian history. And given Levine’s outsider perspective, he doesn’t get wrapped up in petty politics or the spin that otherwise distorts our discourse. He is laser-precise more often than not, and reveals the contradictions, hypocrisies and absurdities you might expect to find in a pan-nationalist confederation of ‘minorites-majoritaires’. It is ultimately a nation worth saving, worth fighting for, though I feel this might be required reading in order to know why. Even then, the solutions to our problems may seem a bitter pill to swallow. So be it.
I cannot over-state just how important this book is for anyone looking to get a firm grasp on who we are as people. An exceptional book that makes for a difficult yet ultimately rewarding read.