A 1945 novel written by Franco-Manitoban author Gabrielle Roy. The French title literally translates as "Used Happiness", but English editions of the book usually use the horribly inspid title "The Tin Flute". The novel depicts the working-class Saint-Henri neighbourhood of Montreal in the late 1930's and the experiences of the Lacasse family as it lives through the Great Depression and Canada's entry into World War II. The novel largely focuses on Florentine Lacasse, the family's oldest daughter, who experiences the stress and limitations of her station in life in her attempts to court Jean Lévesque, an upwardly mobile businessman.
The novel is an excellent illustration of Margaret Atwood's theory that the distinguishing characteristic of Canadian literature is survival. The Lacasse family's attempt to survive in the face of illness, financial catastrophe, linguistic alienation vis-à-vis the dominant Anglophone minority, and the dominance of the Catholic Church in the pre-Quiet Revolution period provides a truly distinct portrait of the time period.
For those whose understanding of the era is limited to reruns of The Waltons, Roy's bleak portrayl of the struggles of family life provides a more realistic and human angle. Rather than making one yearn for simpler, gentler times, Roy's writing makes manifest the agony that economic and social circumstances far beyond their control had on working class families in Quebec.
Roy's novel echoes the lack of popular nostalgia for the period in much of Canada, but particularly in Quebec, where the prewar period is popularly referred to as "la grande noirceur"(the great darkness) and is dominated by images of the corrupt Premier of Quebec during the period, Maurice Duplessis and the Church's collaboration with his conservative, ultramontanist regime.
Not exactly mindfuck inducing, but certainly a novel whose portrait of the human condition will stick with you long after you finish reading.