Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

beside the sea 1

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi

French fiction

Original title – Bord de mer

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I can live with the sky falling out from above
I can live with your scorn, your sourness, your smug
I can live growing old alone if push comes to shove
But I can’t live without my mother’s love

I can live flying round at an impossible pace
I can live with the bad etiquette that’s falling on this place
I can live with anything you’ve got to throw in my face
But I can’t live without my mother’s embrace

A sons love of his mother Sun kill Moon song I can’t live without my mothers love  , but what happens when a mother has despair at her sons and her life !

can it really be five-year I said to myself a couple of months ago , when I decide to revisit the first three books from Peiene press .They’ve been publishing books in translation as long as I’ve been running the blog and they have provided in that time some of the most thought-provoking books I have read .So back to the book beside the sea seems to be a favourite book from Peirene still after five-year among people who have read their books .I maybe the first time round wasn’t as grabbed as many readers were but this time I felt a greater connection to the book .

When they were both asleep it was hard for me .The talking started all on its own in my head , I hate that , thinking is a nasty piece of work .sometimes I’d rather be a dog , you can bet dogs never wonder what their place in life is or who they should follow , they just sniff the air and its all recorded , in there for ever .And they stick to it

The mother starts to think over night as her boys sleep

Beside the sea is the story of a mother and her two sons , on the surface we seeing them going on a holiday , maybe out of season but to the seaside as the three of them arrive on a bus late in the evening and find a hotel to stay in  . The mother is unnamed but her two sons are kevin and Stan , she is a single parent we are told little bits about how she had the boys and what the boys are like  at home and together how the older brother watches the younger brother and looks after him .But throughout the book this time you get a  sense all isn’t right  with the mother and the thoughts in her head .This time I read the book noticing a lot more little things that lead up to the end moment of the books ,when the mother makes a decision that will affect her and her boys for the rest of her life !

I dreamt of the sea , I remember , of Stan running towards the sea , into the sea , but not drowning, and me with no words left to call him back …  Where was Kevin ? I don’t know , I could feel him but not see him , it was like the sea was only there for Stan and two of them understood each other so well tht it couldn’t hurt him .

She pictures the boys beside and in the sea .

Now I have yet again in the summary of the book , I’ve  not mention the big event in this book because for me if someone hasn’t read the book its like when we told people who hadn’t seen the sixth sense at the cinema what had really happened to Bruce Willis .But in reread the books the clues are there through the books in the thoughts and way the mother talks about her sons .At the time of the first reading I had read a lot less French fiction but now five years on this book is easier to place in the French cannon .The way French fiction can explore emotions and actions maybe even thoughts that a writer has had and never carried out  , but where these actions and thoughts  could lead so one of the first French novels on this blog becomes the 51st French book on the blog .In my original review I mentioned Kitchen sink drama as an English equivalent of this  book , but now years on maybe this book is nearer the sort of film Ken Loach would make there is a real natural feel to the prose ,but because Olmi obviously knew what was going to happen at the end we get little bit thrown through out the story that point us when we get to the main event in the book .I also think this is a book that would have more of an impact if you are a parent yourself , I’m sure many people have felt the despair that this mother feels about her sons .

Have you read this book if not why not ?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 10:23:36

    As a mother of two sons, I really connected with this book – it terrified me, but if we are being absolutely honest with ourselves, we have all at times felt some of the despair the narrator feels.


  2. hastanton
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 16:53:57

    This book is beautifully written despite its bleak theme. I know that stretch of French coastline v well too and it is brilliantly described. Hard hitting and atmospheric altho im not sure i could face a re read.


  3. JacquiWine
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 20:11:04

    I haven’t read this book although it’s been on my radar for a while. I will read it one day, but this month wouldn’t have been the right time for me. If I’ve discovered anything in the past year or so it’s that timing is everything with a book such as this. It sounds bleak but beautifully rendered


  4. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 20:11:48

    You’ve got a head start! I have the three books ready to read in January, but it will be the first time for me as I only picked up on Peirene Press after the first couple of themes. Will be reading this in January!


  5. Col
    Dec 16, 2014 @ 20:33:19

    I love the very ‘straight to the point’ feel of your question at the end of the review! Alas the answer for me is no I’ve not read it and my ‘excuse’ is that I’d never heard of it till I read the review! But now that I am aware of it I will look out for this and try and remedy the fact that I’ve not read it yet!


  6. Max Cairnduff
    Dec 23, 2014 @ 12:49:22

    I have read it, and I found it both powerful and horrible. It’s very well written.

    Emma of bookaround picked up a nice point that to a French reader the kids’ names immediately tells you something about their social class.

    Jacqui, it’s worth reading, but have something a bit brighter lined up for after and avoid if you’re feeling down is what I’d say on it.


  7. Trackback: Top 50 books in translation since 2000 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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December 2014


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