The woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault

The Woman in Valencia by Annie Perreault

Quebec fiction

Original title – La femme de Valence

Translator – Ann Marie Boulanger

Source – review copy

It has been a while well actually six months it seems longer since I have featured a book from Quebec over recent years they have produced some of my favourites reads so this is one of the latest from QC books from Annie Perreault a writer that left university with a degree in Russian studies and French literature here first short story collection got an honourable mention in the Adrienne-Choquette Award. This was her debut novel it was also a finalist for the prestigious Prix Ringuet and shortlist for another prize. The book looks at the aftermath of one shocking event that lasts no more than a few mins on the life of one woman and then her daughter.

Finally, the woman pulls out a pack of lucky strikes, she offers one to Claire, who waves it away. With trembling fingers, the stranger lights a cigarette, She hands her bag to claire and moves to the corner of the terrace to smoke. Claire sets the bag down at the end of her chaise longue and eyes it nervously , as though a rat might suddenly crawl out of it. She inspects a cut on her finger and checks her hand for blood

Claire doesn’t immediately grasp what’s happening, she watches her children playing in the pool,They’re laughing, clinging to their dad’s neck, splashingeach other. They’re happy

Moments later the world of these family is chnaged  for ever

Claire Halde is on a vacation with her family in Valencia. With her husband, they are in a rooftop bar having drinks.  when she is approached by a woman unkempt that seems to have self-harmed that offers her a cigarette then asks her to watch over her handbag whilst she went to the have a smoke. The next thing Claire sees is the woman walking out of the toilet and then walk off the roof to her death. This event haunts Claire as she looks at what this woman was through the contents of that bag. What we see is her reliving that event but then what happened after but also when she returned and had a passionate affair a few years after that day as we see what happens when you get caught in suicide and can’t stop the person doing it. The later part of the book follows Claire daughter a marathon runner who like her mother ends up doing a marathon in Valencia we follow her on every kilometre of the race as she relives her life her mother and all that has happened this is a story of three women a mother and daughter and a woman who leapt to her death and the effect on Laure and Claire

Things to do before you die

I remember my mother running,

I think of her often, sprinting like she was trying to escape from us, run away from us at top speed.

Since arriving in Spain three days ago, I’ve been carrying around the same soft covered notebook with the mustard yellow binding, i run my hand over its smooth surface, I’m too scared to eread it again. I’m keeping my distance

Over the years, my mother amassed countless of these slim notebooks, which she brought from a Japanese stationary store in New york city, When I turned eighteen my father gave me a pile of the, most of them are identical. all of them are dog eared

Return to the place where she started to loe her mother in many ways after that moment

This is a story of lives and what happens when you get caught up in a shocking event. Suicide is one of the hardest things to think about still years after the loss of my brother in law who took his own life on my wife myself and our family the moment changed all our lives and here we see how it affected claire the ripple effect of the separation and affair after the event is how some people deal with the event by a change of course in their lives but then there is the knock-on effect of that moment on her daughter this is a book on the human condition but also about those turning points in life what would have happened had some stop her would it be remembered by those involved,  would Claire and Jean still be married would Laurie need to run marathons ?, What connects these three women is a brief conversation and the contents of that bag and the impact of the women leaping to her death. The book is a close look at grief depression and how it can affect us all and how one event can lead to so many changes in so many lives. it is a book where the female character leap of the page.

Winstons score – B a look at one moment and the aftermath of that moment.

Shadow Booker International winner 2020

Later today we see the acgtual Booker international winner announced as with other years we too the longlist this time we didn’t call any books in that had missed the list. We then voted and discussed for the first time via Zoom which gave a new dimenson to the discussion and finally met some of my fellow judges face to face for the te first time.We then voted from the shortlist of

David Diop (France) & Anna Moschovakis
– At Night All Blood is Black (Pushkin Press)

Benjamin Labatut (Chile) & Adrian Nathan West
– When We Cease to Understand the World (Pushkin Press)

Olga Ravn (Denmark) & Martin Aitken
– The Employees (Lolli Editions)

Adania Shibli (Palestine) & Elizabeth Jaquette
– Minor Detail (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Maria Stepanova (Russia) & Sasha Dugdale
– In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Andrzej Tichý (Sweden) & Nicola Smalley
– Wretchedness (And Other Stories)

A journey that had taken use from World war one and a revenge story told from a fresh perspective. Then a collection of vignettes and stories about science and the world around us. Then a spaceship crew human and android talk and in the end question what made us Human. Then a woman shift through her aunt’s flat but as she does build a picture of Russia through her family in the 20th century. Then a cel,lo player sees what might have been his life if he hadn’t chosen a different path in his life. The our winner –

we choose as our  winner –

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (Fitzcarraldo Editions) TRanslated by Elizabeth Jaquette

A book that missed the actual shortlist but was a shadow jury favourite and actually one of the clearest winners we have had also the fourth book in five years from Fitzcarraldo which shows the strength of their list. A book that shows the horrors of war but also how a devastating event a woman getting attacked and rape is, in the end, a small footnote in history as we see someone from the present looking for the story of the attack which made up the first part of the novel. The book demonstrates what I love in translated fiction a look into history on a personal level and also an insight into a conflict that of the Palestine that is still occurring to this day from both sides that show the horror and lasting impact on those involved.

What has been your favorite from this years list ?

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