Nouschka Tremblay and her twin brother Nicolas are twenty years-old and live with their grandfather in an ill-maintained apartment near Saint-Laurent Boulevard, in the heart of Montreal. Despite being child stars thanks to their father’s activism and former popularity with the media, the live in relative poverty, did not finish high school and seem to have dim prospects for the future. Their mother was a young girl from the countryside who get pregnant by accident after an encounter with their father at a party. After the twins’ birth, they are taken back to Montreal to be brought up by their grandparents.
The book starts with this sentence: “I was heading along Rue Sainte-Catherine to sign up for night school.” All through the book, we see Nouschka complicated relationship to social conformity, represented by going to school, and the social deviance that surrounds her (tramps, prostitutes, drunks, drug addicts). Nouschka does well at school and enjoys her classes but is always being pulled back by her brother’s antics and her boyfriend Raphaël’s (later her husband) shenanigans.
Why “The Girl Who Was Saturday Night”? If you search for the keywords “saturday night” in the book, you will find them only once, in Chapter 49: Raphaël and Nouschka are getting dressed to go out and he says “Let’s go out, baby. A girl as pretty as you shouldn’t even be sitting on the side of the bed in the middle of the jungle on a Saturday night with no place to go. Let’s go out dancing and then I’ll bring you back home and treat you right, show you that you married the right man.”
“Saturday night” because life is a party, because one must celebrate being alive with no care for tomorrow, because one is young? And the girl was Saturday Night but no longer is as marriage, motherhood and tragedy make her grow up?
O’Neill, Heather. The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Harper Collins, Toronto, ON, 2014.