Mark Lavorato’s third novel, Serafim and Claire, plops us into a dirty, cutthroat Montreal in the 1920s. Claire is a dancer whose ambition probably outweighs her talent and who is mostly alone and mostly sad. She dreams of stardom but things go a little wrong along the way. Serafim has just come to Montreal on a boat from Portugal and he lives through a camera, always at a lens’ distance from the world. Lavorato works hard at not letting the book get sucked into the realm of gaudy and sentimental historical fiction. The structure also keeps things zippy with a looping timeline and descriptions of photographs taken of characters and events. But this is not a breezy story. There is poverty, crime, filth, brutal violence, and sex scenes sadder and more real than anything you’ll see on Girls.