The fruits of hatred

Margot Joli’s first novel takes place in a small Franco-Manitoban town

The writer who uses the pen name Margot Joli did not set out to write this type of novel. “What I wanted to do,” she says, “was to write a novel about hate.” But there you go. Le fruit de la haine, the first title in the Corporal Sylvain Trudel of the RCMP trilogy, has been published by Éditions de la nouvelle plume of Regina.

“The idea was simmering for a long time,” Joli says. “I had thought of developing the theme between countries, but that would have been a bit pretentious. So I told myself, no, I’ll start with what I know. I know what life in a small town is like, especially during the 1960s, the harmful consequences that could occur when a person was ostracized. I had seen it, I knew a little of what it was.”

The story is set in 1968 in the small town of Rochelle, which could be any one of the small rural francophone communities in Manitoba. Like Ross, for example, where the author was born and grew up. “I took my small town as a bit of a model, but I made up the rest,” says Joli.

She wanted to write a novel about hatred. “Originally, I was going to develop the story from the beginning and lead up to the murder. But it was more dramatic to start with the murder. And that is how I found myself writing a murder mystery. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it.”

The idea of the small town was there from the start, says Joli, as was the tension between the English and the French in that town. Corporal Sylvain Trudel is Québécois, and he is not easily accepted when he arrives in Manitoba, especially by his anglophone subordinate.

Margot Joli
Margot Joli

Joli says she loves writing. “As a teacher, I always wrote when I had different themes to develop in class. Very often we could not find material written in French. Being a teacher in the French Immersion program, I would write material for the students on themes that were taught. You wanted them to learn the sentences, not just expressions.”

Joli began “writing just to write” after she retired from teaching in 2010 and moved to Winnipeg Beach. Why did she choose to write in French in Manitoba? “It comes to me more easily,” she says. “I write in English because I am a member of the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group. But I find that my writing flows better in French.”