the Last One by Fatima Dads

The Last One by Fatima Daas

French fiction

Original title –La Petite Dernière

Translator – Lara Vergnaud

Source – Library

I love my local library it is well stocked and gets a lot of new books in so I often go and look for something I have missed or maybe just missed and this is one such book. I think I saw it around Twitter maybe when it came out. Fatima Daas is a leading new voice who sold very well in France and is a feminist she identifies as an intersectional Feminist. This is the pseudonym of the writer she adopted it in her mid-teens she was taught by the writer Tanguy Viel she went on to study literature at this time she also had her sexual awakening and its effect on her religion and family this is a complex work about growing up Lesbian from NORTH African family and trying to remain a Muslim. a stunning debut from a new talent.

My name is Fatima.

The name of a symbolic figure in Islam.

A name that must be honoured.

A name that mustn’t be “soiled”, as we say in my


In my house, to soil means to dishonour. Wassekh, in Algerian Arabic.

Or daria, darija, our word for dialect.

Wassekh: soil, stir shit up, blacken.

It has multiple meanings, like “close”.

My mother would use the same word to tell me

I had got my clothes dirty, the same word when she came home and found her Kingdom in bad shape.

The opening chapter and the first time we see My name is Fatima Daas

This book uses the same beginning at every chapter MY name is Fatima Daas what follows is how she is growing and the struggles a young woman has growing up. During her school years, she struggles to fit in as a pupil going off the rails till she finds her voice in writing. Then her family and how will she fit in when she discovers her sexuality. Then this has a knock-on effect on her religion. she dreamt of being ani man and how can she aline herself with the values of the religion. How do you cope when you grow up as a Lesbian Muslim in Modern France? This is a refreshing take on the Bildungsroman. The pains, sadness and small wins along the way. The book is hypnotic at times with the repeating motif and the initial description of where Fatima is in her life at this point. Its a tale of how to break free and become your own person but also keep at heart where you are from and who you are! what you become and how you became.

My name is Fatima Daas, I was born in France, sometimes I spend more than four hours on public transport to get to class, work, a theatre, a museum or back home to my parents’ house.

I begin to take public transport regularly when I’m eighteen.

After a while, I experience “commuter fatigue”, the kind that induces a migraine at pretty much the same time every evening, that makes you prematurely realize that your body is aging, that colours your mood, prompts you to overreact, to complain almost as much as the Parisians, and to bursts of anger that are difficult to control.

It’s the kind of fatigue that makes you think about

“moving closer”.

A later chapter about being a commuter in Paris

This is a work that draws you into Fatima’s life with the repetitive nature of the chapters. It is like the drumbeat of Kodo drummer beating and driving the fragments of her life as we see a girl that should have been a boy to her father. Then growing up in the France of LE pen etc being Algerian and  Muslim been twisted by what that means when you sexually awaken to the fact you’re a girl attracted to Girls. This is a side of modern France rarely seen. How do you identify yourself this is how we deal with Labels we all have labels but do they define you or create you what labels do you show which should you hide? A great slice of Autofiction just after the master of Autofiction won the Nobel this is maybe this generation Ernaux a strong female with her own struggles and emotional journey like Ernaux before her. Have you a favourite work of Autofiction or a favourite Queer novel in translation?

Winstons score – + A this is why I read books in translation insight into other lives and places.



Girl A Novel by Camille Laurens

Girl a novel by Camille Laurens

French fiction

Original title – Fille

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – Review Copy

I’m late to the review of this just it was one of those books that you have to let sink into you as it was a powerful insight into growing up female in a male-dominated world. Camille Laurens is a member of the Academy Goncourt she was involved in a scandal last year around her husband getting voted on the longlist and a review she had published of another book on the list in Le Monde (I love these little snippets about writers it makes them seem real, Plus it is hard when you partner is in the same world as you and this situation happens). Camille is a prize-winner writer winning the Prix femina and has been on a number of prize Juries over the years she has had a number of books translated into English this is the first book by her I have read.

You’re a girl. It’s not a tragedy either, you see. You are slant-eyed but we’re not in China. Were not in India. In India the words “it’s a girl”  are now banned. Saying “it’s a girl” before the baby is born is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 6,000 rupees: people are no longer allowed to ask for or carry out scans to identify the baby’s sex and then have an abortion because too many girls are vanishing; so many have been nipped in the bud that there are whole villages of single men. So many girls have been liquidated, they never use the words “sister” or”wife.” Before scans were invented girls were killed at birth. If you’d been born in India or China, you might be dead. In Rouen
everything’s fine. You’re loved in spite of it

As I said the world still has many Laurence’s in it

The book focus on a childhood in the 60s we meet Laurence she is the second daughter her family is a typical family of the time her father works as a doctor and her mother is a housewife. This is really the back bok=ne of the book the time it is set and what we see is Laurence taking apart her childhood. He wanted a son and heir. so When Laurence is born, that really sets the tone for her childhood in many ways the feeling of always being a second-class person to her father’s disregard for the siblings. The fathers constant undermining and view of the world  This is a slice of a provincial world and views you often look back on news footage of these days(I love the bcc archive YouTube channel little snippets of stories over the years) and think was that the world and this is a birds-eye view of growing up female in a male world. The second half of the book is a flip to the first as we see the daughter become a mother to her own Daughter Alice and can she change the way she was brought up it is a picture of a dotting mother trying to avoid what befell her as a child but it is also shown how times and attitudes had changed in the intervening years. The adult Laurence has scars of her childhood and certain events in her life show that.

My father takes my sister and me to see it one after the other, never together. If the boat should capsize or suddenly deflate, even with our water wings on we could drown, and he wouldn’t be able to save both of us, he’d have to choose. Now that’s a father who thinks of everything, even death. Perhaps he’s thinking of Gaelle: girls do that, they die. Perhaps if one of the two of us had been a
boy, he’d have taken us both in the boat. A boy’s good and strong, a boy can always cope. But more tellingly, I think to myself, if one of us were a boy, he wouldn’t hesitate if the boat went down, he’d know who to save.

This one passage hit me hard sad but true

This is a powerful work of feminist writing it takes apart a childhood when you were the sex that wasn’t wanted there is a universal nature to that yes our attitudes in the west have changed and moved on maybe not far enough but books like this show how far along the road we are but also are a reminder of what still has to change how many Laurence are there still around the world. Its hard not to feel there is still;l far to come as is shown when Laurence’s education and just the sheer disadvantage of being female what is shocking is this is only 60 years ago and seems a distant land for me I am a couple of decades younger, but this world felt alien to even then. She works the narrative well with all three perspectives at the time the first second and third person of this life is a woman’s life a look at those subtle obstacles that often are created whether it be sex, race or sexual orientation there is always those that tried and try to sublet unsettled people. It took me a while to review this as it just has to sink in it made me angry and sad at times and for me that is what we as readers read for those journeys those narratives other than our own to be female in a small French provincial time is something I Never could be but this book brought me into her life. Have you read any other books from Camille Laurens /

Winstons score – A – look behind the curtain at going up the wrong sex and disadvantaged due to that and how it effect her own motherhood.

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

Origin title – Moderato Cantabile

Translator – Richard Seaver

Source – personal copy

I picked this up earlier this year with Woman in translation month in mind and it is strange as the book I reviewed yesterday had slight echoes to Duras Lovers as it is set in Vietnam and had a man from Vietnam of Chinese descent at its heart.(I have reviewed lovers a long time ago and another from her a few years ago). So this is my third book from Duras and this is the earliest book from her. I have read the one that put her in the spotlight as a writer when it came out and sold half a million copies. Duras was born in Vietnam or as it was then French Indo-china she lived there most of her early life eventually studying in Paris and living in France during the war where her husband end up a t Buchenwald she nurse him back to life after the war she was part of the Nouveau Roman moment this book was made into a film.

The growing clamor of voices of both sexes rose from the dock. Everyone seemed to be saying the
same thing, but it was impossible to distinguish the words. The sonatina went innocently along, but this time, in the middle of it, the lady could take no more.
The child stopped. The lady turned to Anne Des-baresdes. “I’m sure something serious has happened.” They all went to the window. To their left, some twenty yards from the building, a crowd had already gathered on the dock in front of the café door. From the neighbouring streets people were running up to join the crowd. Everyone was looking into the café.
“I’m afraid this part of town.” the lady said. She turned and took the boy’s arm.”Start again,one last time, where you left off.”
“What’s happened?”

The event happened during the Child’s lesson.

The book follows Anna she is the wife of a factory owner the book opens as she is at a piano lesson hence the title of the book when the piano teacher asks her child what Moderato Cantabile means`( he is referred to as just the child) as the lesson happens the attention is drawn outside the lesson to a cafe just by them it seems as they something is happening as they stare on the cafe the police come. It turns out there has a murder opposite a lover has killed the woman he was in love with. Well Anna is drawn in so next time she goes she visited the cafe where she saw the action last piano lesson what follows is her revisit the cafe where she meets a worker from her Husband’s business and pumps him for info of what had happened her imaging why it happened the day it happened as he Chauvin fills in the gaps of what happened. As the two are in the cafe on a Friday as the child has lessons. she starts to see this new man in her child at points saying he has similar eyes. This meeting is repeated this describes their lives this is a book where nothing but everything happens if that makes sense most of the book is about the same meeting at the cafe over a number of weeks.

The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unintelligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes. “Won’t you sit down?” he said. She followed him without a word. As she knitted,
the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking an unfortunate turn.The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unin-
telligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes.
“Won’t you sit down?” he said.
She followed him without a word. As she knitted, the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking
an unfortunate turn.

Red is a recurring motif in the book.

This is one pop those books that subtly hits you as a reader it is about the memory of a place in a way I can see this influence on other French writers including one of my favourites Modiano it is a book heavy on the sense of place. But with a lot of imagination to events by them both that for me in a way mirrors British books around this time I think the relationship between Anna and Chauvin is similar to those of certain books like Billy liar the relationship between Billy and Liz the way the real and imagined events blend or ike in a taste of honey where imagination and reality clash. It is a connection between class also that feeling of her as a repressed wife meeting this rougher man and making a connection. The book is as short as Peirene would call a movie book a book read in a couple of hours falls into that category. It was made into a film but it isn’t online to stream I hope to catch it one day as it is meant to be a French classic film. This is my favourite of the three I have read as it is one of those books that you think is easy but then days later are still making connections and going oh there was this and that there in this book. Have you read this or any books by her ? have you a favourite?

A cage in search of a bird by Florence Noiville

A cage in Search of a bird by Florence Noiville

French fiction

Original title – L’Illusion délirante d’être aimé

Translator – Teresa lavender Fagan

Source – Personal copy

I return to a writer that I had reviewed a while ago her non fiction work Literary miniatures a collection of her reviews and piece she had written for Le Monde where for a number of years she had been in charge of the foreign writers section of the paper she had interviewed most of the leading writers for the last twenty years. She has written four novel and a number of non fiction works. I picked this book as it just grabbed me as it deals with Mental Health as someone who works with people with mental health issues so this description of some one with De clerambault syndrome(he De clerambault was one of the first to look at mental illness in a new Wayne of his students was Lacan !!) a condition that sees some one try to become another person that usually ends in a bad way for one of the two people involved.

Wouldn’t it be best simply to talk directly with C? I screw up my courage and leave her a message. Why don’t we talk things over seriously? In the day rather than at night? Ten minutes later C calls back. She says she agrees, ‘of course she agrees’. We set a meeting for the next day, at a cafe near the Trocadéro. That evening I dive back into de Clérambault. *

Can she talk to her ?what will happen if she does ?she will find out reading about the syndrome

The book follows Laura she is living her best life as we would call it these days. She is in Paris(I love a visit to Paris )she is working in TV as a journalist and is on the up she has a bright future. So when she meets a old school friend who is just referred to through out the book as C she gets her a job at the TV she just feel she is helping her out but as she starts to try and get into Laura life and at first  it is first subtle then we sheC  e mail and becoming more and more obsessive around her as the syndrome takes its toll on C and so on Laura. As C makes her self part of her circle of friends and at every turn there is C, as she starts to almost want to Be Laura as she starts to worry we see her try and find out what is happening to Her and C. As things are turning against her as C starts to make her look bad and it is seen the Laura is the one getting Bullied by Laura then even when she is falling out with her partner. She finds a Psychiatrist and try and find out what this De Clerambult syndrome was that C has and is shocked with what she finds basically C is trying to be her and basically it will end up with either her of C in a really bad way. the book sees the tale unfurl as the tense and horror of events is clearer.

‘Do you remember my first wife, Ulrica?’ my friend Vincent asks me. ‘It was right after she was hired as a professor at the Sorbonne. Every day a guy came to talk to her after her classes, then followed her in the street. She found notes rolled up and stuffed in the keyhole at home. One day she read an anti-Semitic allusion on one of them. She finally spoke to me about it, and I picked up my phone and called the guy. I told him that if he continued I would call the police. Two days later I saw an announcement of his death in Le Monde— suicide.’

How she is so intrusive and paranoia is evident here

I liked the way this book was paced as we see C slowly become more and more like Laura and how Laura copes with this Woman,an trying to take over her life and position it feels like when you see someone trying to be you. the book has a thriller feel in its pacing as we see what is C love for Laura but also what happens when she tries to avoid it this is now called Erotomania the film Nurse Betty is also about the same condition and over time there has been a number of celebrities that have had people with the condition come into there lives and they have done things or stalked the celeb.This is a book that highlights an illness not to well known or mentioned. If you like books that have a thriller feel with out being a thriller that deal with Mental health this would be one for you. Have you read any similar book dealing with mental health issues ?

Winstons score B – a interesting tale of two woman when one wants to be the other with obsession and mental health issues.

the book of mother by Violaine Huisman

The book of mother by Violaine Huisman

French fiction

original title -Fugitive parce que reine

Translator – Leslie Camhi

Source – Library book

Well this year there has been more books on the long listed I wasn’t very aware of this is another that had passed me by which is a shame as I have always had a soft spot for French auto-fiction. This is the debut novel from Violaine Huismann born in Paris she had lived for nearly twenty years in New York where she had organised the Brooklyn Academy of music Literary series and she also organised a number of art festivals. She had spent time on the side writing about her mother but it wasn’t to a number of years after her mother had passed and she herself had become a mother she felt in the right place to talk about her mother, her childhood and her mother’s death and how that had impacted on her and her sisters life. There is a great interview on YouTube about the book and how she want her mother to be remembered.

Maman often fainted due to the cocktail of medications that
she combined with alcohol. She hid her whiskey under her mattress,
in the back of kitchen cupboards that she imagined were secret, in
glasses of Coca-Cola that she forbade us from tasting, Coca-Cola
which we usually drank directly from the same family-size bottle, just
as the three of us dried ourselves with the same bath towel. The fact
that we possessed plenty of towels didn’t make a difference-_No one
around here has scabies as far as I know!

The young Violaine sees her mother faint when she is young due to the meds she is on.

The book has three parts the first is Violaine story in a way that of her and her sister growing up twith there mother that has very wild swings in her mood she had mental Health issues but as she said in the interview they are just a label and not how it was to live with mother. The book opens as her mother drives her and her sister through the centre of Paris in there car at high speed with the two children not wearing seat belts as a result of this her mother is sectioned for a time. Her mother had been married three times and was one of those characters that leaps of the page when you read her no matter how bad she can be with her children they still await her return this feels like the writer trying to explain her mother she said she just want her and the close family as real characters and some of the stuff that had happened with her mother where just too chaotic to appear in the book part of the problem was the fact that her mother was always struggling with the fact she had lost her place she had married a man from the upper class and never really fit in. The second [part of the book goes back to Maman as `Violaine calls her mother when Catherine grew up there was events that happened with her mother that she discovered via her fggrandmother she tries to get across her mothers child hood her from the piece she gathered growing up the last part off the book moves forward and sees the two sisters dealing with the mother death.

I was responsible for calling Maman’s lover with the news of her
suicide, and for telling him about the letter, where it could be found. I
was chosen by default, because I was the only one who had met him,
the only one to have gone to see firsthand Maman’s life in Dakar, First
he screamed, then he broke into tears. He asked me if he could see her
one last time. He could only see her here, in France, in Paris. We had to
find a way to get him here, we had to get a visa for him in time, while
Maman still had a body. We had to do the impossible, but my sister
and I were capable of that; nothing was impossible where Maman was
concerned, except for saving her. In less than a week we had mobilized
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French consulate in Dakar. In
less than a week he was in the air.

This hit me hard remind me of when we found about about my brother in law when he took his life. a day I will never forget

This is one off those books that could have gone so wrong and either been to rose tinted about her mother or the other extreme that it could have made her mother into a monster. But she seems to have caught her mother just right and that is as a human with both a bad and good side and also made her memorable she is one of those people that is larger than life through the young Violaine eyes and in the latter part after her mother death shows the effect she had one them.In the interview she said  this is how she wanted to put her mother across in the book as a person but want to use fiction instead of memoir for this. She said she had used Proust as how she wanted to write the book  about how he wrote about his life. For me the use of the three part works as it shows the events over time but also part of the reason her maybe why her mother was the way she was. It also shows how they got over such horrors in their youth. Then also managed to break the cycle of abuse. This could easily have been the writers own life as her experience could like many have been passed down as this is how a childhood is. The Proust connection is also there in the title which is a line from proust ht full line is Every woman feels that the greater her power over a man, the more impossible it is to leave him except by sudden flight: a fugitive precisely because a queen which maybe capture what she tires to do with her mother story. The book is a classic slice of Auto fiction Ala proust but not with the bitterness that we saw in a writer like Knausgaard yes it is a bad childhood but her mother is never painted as a monster and sometimes as my job has shown it is hard when someones head is just so messed up swings of mood can never quite be controlled. Have you read this or do you have a favourite piece of Autofiction

Winstons score – -A childhood and larger than life mother caught warts and all.

Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet

French fiction

Original title – La Jalousie

Translator -Richard Howard

When I noted the other week that I was only 19 books away from 150 french books read I had a look back over all the books I had read from France over the years and looked at my shelves and thought I need a little more depth to the selection is mostly modern writers so I do have a lot of french books as they now are my go-to country to read from when I started the blog it would be German fiction but these days it is very much French literature but as I say more modern french literature. So I decide the next few french books will have a few older books and here we go with a book from the post-war era of French Literature. When we got a group of writers that were grouped together as the roman Noveau the new novel  Grillet and other writers like  Claude Simon (I have my eye on a new edition of his work from The Flanders road I have reviewed him and also a book from Nathalie Surraute. Robbe Grillet wrote a weekly column about his view of the modern novel. He was both a writer and also a filmmaker. This is his best-known novel I have already reviewed A project of a Revolution in New York which was written a number of years after this book. Anyway, I have watched a few of his films in the meantime and also read a bit about him and this book has a lot of common threads that appear in Grillet’s works.

Franck is here agaun for dinner, smiling, talkative, affable. Christiane has not come with him this time; she has stayed home with the child , who is running a slight fever. It is not unusal, these fays, for the husband to come without her like this, because of the child, because of christiane’s own ailments – for her health has difficulty adapting itself to this hot, humid climate – and also because of her domestic  problems, her difficulties managing her numerous and poorl organized servants.

There is an undercurrent of this short passage I felt !!

The book is the first-person narrative of a jealous husband as he is viewing his wife whom we only ever know as A in the book and her interaction with their neighbour Franck with his wife sometimes other times just Franck. We watch as the narrator glimpses on through the blinds. The title in french has a duel meaning as Jaluise is also the French name for Venitian blinds that the jealous husband is observing the action but this itself means that his description of the events is limited to our narrator’s vision of the event and is from the viewpoint that he feels his wife A is having this affair with Franck this love triangle is the heart of the book as we observe that action or well the events it is set in a Banana plantation and this is the time that the French Empire was like the British Empire was starting to fall apart so one imagines that there is a sense of that the heat also will add to the tension of the events happening I was reminded at times of the restored scenes of Apocalypse Now where we follow the evening in the old plantation. There is a feel of what is missed in the narrative also he like in his films jumps from time to time from one event to another event. This is a classic slice of what the New novel as a concept was meant to do and that is to rip up the novel as a norm away from the novel to the bare mechanics of what the work is!

They look at each other without adding another word.Franck widens his smiles, which wrinkles up the corners of his eyes. He opens his mouth as if he were going to say something, be he doesn’t say anything. A …’s features, from a point three quarters of the way behind her, reveal nothing.

After several minutes- or serveral seconds – both are still in the same postition. Franck’s face, as well as his whole body, is virtually petrified. He is wearing shorts and a short sleeved khaki shirtm whose shoulder straps and buttoned pockets have a vaguely military look. Over hus rough cotton knee socks he wears tennis shoes coated with a thick layer of white shoe polish, cracked at the places where the canvas bends with the foot.

The mechanic of the meet here also the reference to Military lok remind me of Apocalypse now

I said the mechanics as the bones of this book and it is true that he was trained as an Engineer and there is a sense of that type of mind at work I was reminded of my own father’s mind and the way he views the world which is very much how does it work? That is the heart of what he has done here it is like a hotrod of a novel it has been taken apart and rebuilt you can see its influence on other works after this the way the narrated glimpses into this world of his wife and his neighbours isn’t far removed from Jeffrey viewing frank through the slanted wardrobe door. Even the name is similar Franck and Frank! The glimpse of action even has a nod towards Hitchcock which came out before this book it is all about the angle the view we get the glimpses of the action it is shots of the events we are asked to think about what the events are we add the emotions and maybe even fill the gaps! in the book. So it is easy to see why this is considered an important work of post-war fiction as it is part of a canon of writers that wanted to shake up the novel after the war in France and Nabahkov called it the best novel about Love since Proust maybe the best about the despair of love. Have you read any books or seen the films of Robbe- Grillet.

Winstons score – A look at what one man views or doesn’t?

The end of Eddy by Édouard Louis

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis

French Auto-Fiction

Original title – En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule

Translator – Michael Lucey

Source – Personal copy

Any of you that have followed this blog for any amount of time will know I am wary of what I would call the “It Book “. One of those books that seem to be everywhere when they come out and here is such a book from the current star of French Literature  Edouard Louis a young man that grew up in a small town in Northern France in the Picardy region. In a working-class family in a working-class town. His father had an accident and was unable to work making their lives even harder having to live off government handouts. Anyway, he has written a number of books about his life using that great French tradition of Autofiction so Edouard becomes Eddy Bellegueile from The small French town of Hallencourt which is also Edouard Louis hometown.

The Kicks to my stomach knovcked the wind out of me and I couldn’t cath my breath. I opened my mouth as wide as I could to let in some oxygen. I expanded my chest, , but the air wouldn’t go in, as if without warning my lungs had filed up with some dense kind of sap, with lead. They felt so heavy all of a sudden. My body was shaking, as if it had a mind of its own, as if I had no control over it. The way an agening body that is freeing itself from the mind, or is being abandoned by it, refuse to obey it. A body becoming a burden.

A descriptioin of an attack to him at school.

I was drawn to read this book when I saw it on holiday last year and read the Blurb. I am a fan of Autofiction, although I am not gay I was a skinny backwards kid soft-spoken and into arty things and had a stepfather that made my life hell so I knew that this story is one I would really connect with. We meet Eddy a young boy that is subject to Bullying he has always been out of sync with his family he is just one of those boys that like me at that age stands out. He also has a double-ended problem with school and home life equally being hard. From the Bullies that act him in school a particularly brutal attack in the school corridor reminded me of some of the bullying, I had school I endured at school. Then at home his father lack of accepting his son. We see Eddy’s life the poverty and the homophobia of the town are shown it is a place out of time with other places like many small towns and villages this place isn’t as forward as it should be. Will he make it through?

(WE would go there once a month, it was true, to collect the boxes of food they gave out to the poorest families. The volunteers grew to recognise me and, when we arrived, they would slip me a few extra chocolate bars beyond our allotted share. There’s our little Eddy, how’s he doing ? and my parents would tell anyone, no one, that we go to the food bank, that’s a secret that stays in the family. They didn’t realise thart I’d already understood, without being told, how shameful this was, and that nothing would have made me tell anyone about it. )

The family really struggle with money and have toi go to a food bank such a common occurance these days for so many.

But what sets this apart is how evenly he tells the story it is written with an eye that hasn’t painted the world with a biased brush no this is a view of someone in the eye of the storm observing the storm. The poverty, the bullying, the racism and the homophobia are all written with the sense that they can’t help their views and having grown up in a similar environment with the Bullying and a hard father in my stepfather luckily we weren’t as poor as Eddy to add to his woes. But this book is the first step in books like this that show the horror of being in the eye of a storm you can’t stop the storm only batten down and brave it then tell others about it when you make it to the other side a survivor of the events and that is what this is a person that got through those events and struggles when many others didn’t and so it is a powerful work. I regret leaving it so long to read this book in fact the same thing has happened today with another book. Have you ever left a book because of Hype or do you think it may not be a book for you? Do you love connecting with books on a personal level, for me this is what reading is connections inspirations and discoveries an endless journey we should all be on?

Winstons score – +A – A tough childhood told without prejudice even though they suffered it so much.



Geography of an Adultery by Agnes Riva

Geography of an Adultery by Agnes Riva
French fiction
Original title – Géographie d’un adultère
Translator – John Cullen
Source – review copy

I always like discovering new french writers I have reviewed so many french books over the time of the blog. It averages out at an average of about ten books a year from France This debut novel was on the Prix Goncourt first novel list a list that had has winners such as Kamel Daouad and Laurent Binet both of which I have featured on the blog. The book came out in France in 2918. Agnes Riva lives in the Suburbs of Paris this is where she drew her inspiration for this novel. in the Urban landscape, she sees. The book was just published by another press many thanks to them for sending me a copy to review.

The interior of Paul’s car s[ace rtather limited in volume and distributed with a certain stringency. The design of the four egonomic seats is so precise that squeezing a fifth person into the back would be pratically impossible. The front seats are seperated by a short armrest half their hieghts, it contains no storage console and provides no place to put such small objects as sunglasses of CDs

WIth its leather seatsm aluminum door sills, and stainless steel pedals, the vehicles’s passenger expresses its owners intention to posses a car that offers all available comfort abd luxury,but in miniature, and for the price of an entry level model

Paul smell pervades the space

The opening chatper and it is about the small car luxury but small and maybe that says sometjing longer term abiut Paul ?

The book follows a selection of sites where a couple is having an adulterous affair. The book has a tone that is almost scientific observance a very detached observation of the events detached of the emotions it just shows the events So we meet Ema and Paul as they start an affair that happened when they meet through their jobs on an industrial tribunal which they are both on and start an affair they both have partners and Children so their clandestine meetings take part out of sight as much as possible each chapter is one of these locations Starting with Ema looking as they meet early on in Pauls car describe the car and what it is like grabbing a quick liaison in a car. Then a corner out of sight in a house a chapel as they snatch the quick pieces of passion but there see,s to be two views on this affair as we view it in those small snapshots of the meeting not seeing the event outside the meeting as we don’t see the other side of the affair the home life isn’t shown just the meetings and details of each corner and place they sneak a moment a collection of moments.

The corner they retreat to is located between the sink and the reffrigerator. On one side, along the back wall, a storage cabinet. On the other, the sin and a work counter. Above this space, a stretched fabric forms a decorative false ceiling, in which leads to a bel shaped metal oven hood. Behind the gas stove, a window with two sliding casements overlooks the garden and , on one side, the veranda of the house next door.

Narrow though it is, this space proves in the end to be better suited to quenching their thirst for physical union than inside of Paul’s car, where they move stiffly and clumsily

There second liasion isn’t much more comfortable as they find a corner in Ema’s hpouse out of site of the neighbours.

This is a novella and is written in a wonderful detached style as we get what are Polaroid-like glimpses of an affair I would love pictures to accompany the book that is just me I love the way she has described her observing the Urban landscapes around her home in the Suburbs how to avoid the preying eye is at the heart of an affair and that is what is shown here also the different way the couple view the events Paul is just after the sex really after that initial attraction you always feel Ema wants more maybe the intimacy isn’t what lead her to the affair or is this just me reading to much into the events I do this sometimes anyway this hasn’t a lot of passion or even sex etc it is more about the clandestine nature of the events that unfold it is just a collection of secret meeting places and the meeting and maybe in the description the events then become an anti-climax at times. This is a great debut novel that has a slightly new take on the novel dealing with Adulterous affairs. Have you a favourite adultery novel ?

Winstons score – B is a solid debut novel well translated by John Cullen he has really caught the detached emotionless nature of the book shines through.

Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve

Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve

French fiction

Original title – Les Fleurs d’hiver

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – personal copy

I move on in the books I think maybe around the Booker international longlist when it comes out and to an old favourite publisher Peirene and the second book from their series of books for 2021. Angélique Villeneuve was born in Paris and has lived in Idia and Sweden before she returned to France and became a writer she has written books for both Adults and Children. known for how she portrays the lives of women challenged by events in her life in one of her most recent books. I was looking forward to this book as it struck me it could almost be a companion book to another french book I read many years ago pre-blog day but had a lasting Impression and that was Marc Dugain’s The officer’s ward which follows a soldier that was in a ward like the husband of our main character in this book as he recovered and had facial reconstruction. This book is also like the famous book The return of the Soldier by Rebecca West also follows what happened when the soldier involved in the great war returned to their home.

At first Jeanne stays rooted to her chair, entirely consumed with watching him and avoiding him.She knows what should see, through, where she should look, but bounces about, slips away from her. What she does grasp is that hes taller and handsome in his unifor, and unfanilar too.

She  doesn’t think,He’s here, she thins, it’s here. This unknown thing thart’s coming home to her. That she’s dreaded, and longed for. It’s here. It’s going to come in, it’s going to make its life with her, and with Leo too, it will come here, into this room that the two of them have shared so little since they left Belleville

On his return you can just see the way the tension comes into her thoughts of his reutrn!!

What happens when a family is reunited after the war Toussaint left his wife and then returns to their small apartment after two years away. who has worked as a seamstress through his time away to make money now has to try and make a life with a man that isn’t the man that left not just the effects of the war he has since then spent time in the Val de grace hospital having his face rebuilt but he no way looks like the man that left them two years ago.  Now home unable to talk the dynamics of the home has changed Jeanne and Leonie have struggled and become very close so when Toussaint returns this man his daughter has no idea who he is and Jeane has done what many of the women left behind in both wars and that forms her own circle of friends. mainly woman around her but has you feel grown as a person in the absence of Toussaint who is maybe now a burden on her as she is now in the traditionally male role of the time as the breadwinner for the family. What will happen will the two ever be able to reconnect and build a new life. How much more of recovery will he make? All this in a time when support for things like this happening was rather thin on the ground?

Tousaint introduces something new. not just within the walls of the small fourth-floor room, but also into Jeanne’s life and, to a lesser extent, into Leo’s ; silence.

For the first few days, curled ina foteal posistion under the eiderdown or sitting in the armchair with his head lolling forwardm he sleeps a great deal, although it’s not clear whether he’s boundlessly tired or if this withdraw; is in fact to eradicate his whole body.

The mother and daughter whisper around him, in the narrow spaves requished to them by this silence.

Toussaint is a home but still a burden it seems and there is a sense of unease around him !

As you may tell from my description of this book I loved it I have always been a fan of the books the Peirene choose every year they seem to pick three great books and that is maybe why three gives them chance to find gems around a loose theme. For me this book sits with other great books about war Little woman for example this is one little woman but it follows what happened after. the connection to The officer ward really struck me as almost a follow on to that book that followed soldiers in world war hospital also having facial surgery. The fear in Jeanne at his return is clear both the fact they have got used to him not being there but also the man that returns isn’t the same one! Also at the heart of the is the hardships of the war on those involved struggling to get by and keep themselves going. It is another gem from Peirene a glimpse into one family and through them, there is a wider story of the families during world war I. Have you read this book? Do you have a favourite book about world war One?

Winstons score – A a well written and translated story of three lives changed by war

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangel

Painting Time by Maylis de Kerangel

French fiction

Original title – Un monde à portée de main

Translator – Jessica Moore

Source – Review Copy

I move for the fifth book this month to France to a book that could be on the man booker longlist that I didn’t get to last year a book from a writer I have reviewed another book by her Mend the living. She has been writing novels since 2000 her 2010 novel birth of a bridge was on the Prix Goncourt shortlist and also won a number of other prizes with this book. and with the book I have read Ment the living which was also made into a film. So here I have her latest book that follows a young woman from her student days to her first day in work and also the group of friends she made while studying. What follows is how they develop as artists and people

YOU MIGHT WONDER HOW PAULA KARST, THIS AVERAGE young woman, sheltered and predictable (and a little on the lazy side)_ someone who spends most of her time sitting in a cafe booth in the company of others like her, every ounce of existence frothing in the espresso with the mix of grace and vacuity that grazes genius; hpw this impetuous dabbler, for whom the future was invaribly and comfortably concealed in sfumato, ended up plunging headlong into the large studio on the rue de metal. even more suprising: she rushed there.

As she studies and liuves woth Jonas and has kate about the coffee and the drinks flows

The book follows Paula  Karst and her group of friends she made while studying art at an Institute in  Brussels what Maylis paints is a broad group of people a Female Bouncer from Scotland Kate is a tall blonde with her roots showing big teeth made her lips look thin then Jonas described as having owl-like eyes and lassos for arms these three stay close out of a class of 20 odd students the=ose months of nights out and drink draw them into a close relationship. What they are learning is how to use the techniques that make up the style of art Trompe-l’œi those works made to deceive the viewer but the question is here who is deceiving as she starts to work on film sets working on the sets this work takes her from place to place job to job but she wonders what is the point of this at times is she a real artist of just a Trompe-l’œi herself! this is a young woman that has the techniques but the jobs she is in has closed her creativity to just copying we she here learning how to fake effects with the friends this is ultimately tested when she has to fake the famous cave paintings of Lascaux as she reworks them we get an insight into her and her friend’s world.

But very quickly, in a pendulum swing that she anticipates mischievously, these same students start to worry about their originality, they squirm, stand on tiptoes to stick their heads above the pack, and stake their  claim to their way of doing things, their unique brushstoke. This thirst for distinction that torments them surfaces again after the shock treatment of their traing in woods and marbles it reappears like a lump in batter, and soon the students make it clear that they see the required exercises as strait jackets, ridgid, narrow, stifling their movements, suffocating their personalities, drying up their desire – this is how they express themselves incensed.

The struggle between the craft of paint and the art of being an Artist is caught well and is at the heart of what is Paula.

This is a book about learning who we are about those boundaries between art and craft Paula has the craft it is the bedrock of her style but like her surname which is an eroded landscape where the rick has been shaped into peaks and troughs, this is maybe a nod to what has happened to the Artist Paula Karst of the book, over time her artistic creative side has disappeared as she becomes a craft person is there a difference to me there is that spark is getting lost in her but she is working that paradox is hard to live with. As she starts working on the sets for Cinecitta. Like her other books, Maylis manages to turn the focus of her book onto one subject a heart her is is painting but what is painting is coping tricking art or craft !! This also maybe says something about her own life and that of her friends and the art. The book is rich in the techniques and study of art and what it takes to perfect the Trompe-l’œi style but at what cost! I read this thinking it would be a possible Man booker international chance after reading it I would be shocked not to see it on the list. I’ve never read a book that captures what it is to be an artist so well the craft of painting as they learn is caught well and then how they then go on to lose the techniques is caught well it is about art more than the people for my opinion. What did you think about this book? did it draw you into the world of art as a reader like it did me?

Winstons score – ++ A. One of my favourite books recent times

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December 2022


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