Catherine Leroux watched the story unfold on the nightly news. A woman's skeleton had been found in the woods near Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital. Even though authorities tried everything to identify the body: auditing hospital records, forensic facial reconstruction, DNA testing—she remains a mystery. They named her Madame Victoria and placed her bones in an evidence room. Leroux, fascinated by the possibilities of this woman's life, constructs several possible life stories for her in this unique collection of re-imaginings.
In 2001, a woman’s skeleton was found in the woods overlooking Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite an audit of the hospital’s patient records, a forensic reconstruction of the woman’s face, missing-person appeals, and DNA tests that revealed not only where she had lived, but how she ate, the woman was never identified. Assigned the name Madame Victoria, her remains were placed in a box in an evidence room and, eventually, forgotten.
But not by Catherine Leroux, who constructs in her form-bending Madame Victoria twelve different histories for the unknown woman. Like musical variations repeating a theme, each Victoria meets her end only after Leroux resurrects her, replacing the anonymous circumstances of her death with a vivid re-imagining of her possible lives. And in doing so, Madame Victoria becomes much more than the story of one unknown and unnamed woman: it becomes a celebration of the lives and legacies of unknown women everywhere.
By turns elegiac, playful, poignant, and tragic, Madame Victoria is an unforgettable book about the complexities of individual lives and the familiar ways in which they overlap.