The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

 

Image result for antoine laurain the portrait

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

french fiction

Original title –  Ailleurs si j’y suis,

Translators – Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce

Source – Review copy

I edge towards a hundred books from France this is book 92 and the fourth by one of my favourite writers or recent year Antoine Laurain is a witty lighthearted writer that writes the perfect summer reads for me with his last three books have brighten my summer evenings over the last few years so when his latest arrived a coup,e off months ago I read it the day it came. This was actually his debut novel in French.

That portrait of me, painted two and half centuries ago, which I came across in my forty-sixth year, was to turn out to be the high point of a collection I had been adding to for years .Ech successive year , each successive object, and each successive docket had been leading me here to this late morning in room eight of Drout auction house. But it is to the very beginning of my life as a collector that we must return , to my very first purchase. I was nine years old and , being a the good lawyer i am , I shall name that episode the “Eraser Affair ”

The first and last part of the collection maybe led him to his final piece.

Like his other books has an item as a thread for the story and also like his other books follows one persons obsession with the said item. The item in this book is a Portrait that has been purchased by Pierre Francois a collector of art , even thou this picture isn’t by a great name the second he saw the portrait,  he saw a bit of himself in the sitter of the painting. His family and friends are unable to find what Pierre sees in the painting himself. But pierre is like a dog with a rabbit trying to find out as much as he can about the sitter and artist of the said portrait  a key to this is a small coat of arms in the picture . As he sees a way to drift into the world of the painting as the history of the picture gives him a chance to escape his world. Like his other books we follow one man  journey through the past and  the city of Paris.

After driving for three hours and forty minutes , I parked my Jaguar in the little village square. Here  I was in Rivaille . There was almost no sign of life at that time of the morning, just an old Renault 4 , a clio and a little van . I got out of the car and took some deep breaths of fresh air.It’s only when you’re in the countryside that you notice how polluted, stale , and , worst of all , stupefying the air in Paris . I moved my head side to side ,stretched my arms then shut the car door as I caught sight of the nearest cafe . la jument Verte , with its “Lotto ” and “Tabac” signs I headed there for a double espresso and croissants, after which  I’d ask for directions to the chateau

Pierre nears the end of his journey into the painting .

This is a whimsical look at the life of a collector and how one can easily fall down a rabbit hole when one sees something of ones self in the art we enjoy , as a way of escaping the present. His other books always use the said item of the title the presidents hat takes back through a nostalgia for 80s and the great french leader, a notebook leads to a couple who meet across the city. A long-lost letter and tape reunites friends and this one use the Portrait to reignite a mans passion for his life  and a journey like the other books it is look back at a past and how this great city was in the past. This is almost like the Scene in Woody Allen where Owen Wilson character is given the chance to step back to the 1920’s in Paris , but we also see a looping as a character in the 20’s has a chance to go back to the 1890’s as she finds the 20’s that the Wilson character finds so exciting boring and this is also a  theme that is in the book Pierre francois is a man who has used collecting art to hide away the true sadness in his life .

 

 

Octavio’s Journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

 

Image result for miguel bonnefoy octavio gallic

Octavio’s journey by Miguel Bonnefoy

French fiction

Original title – Le Voyage d’Octavio

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source = review copy

I hope to reach 100 french books under review on the blog this year and one of those publishers that has helped me reach that total is Gallic books they mainly publish french fiction and this is the first book by them I have reviewed this year and it is one that was a runaway success in france for a debut novel . Miguel Bonnefoy was born to a Venezuelan Mother and a Chilean father he spent his childhood in France, Venezuela and Portugal this book was on the longlist for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel .

Don Octavio was born of this land,

He lived on the hillside in a modest , flimsy , slate clad house to which he held no deeds. The space must have formed a single room, was decided into a living room and bedroom ,  wardrobe stood beside a glassleess, curtainless window typical of the tropics , with a camp bed and rush-seat chair nearby. At the back of the living room , candles burnt on a little altar, casting flickers of light on the walls. Apostle figures were carved into beroom handles and also etched on glass which had been filed with rum to guard against misfortune . The scent of wild herbs hung in the air

His humble home was a simple beginning for Don Octavio

This is one of those books that maybe short but seems much longer the book follows the life of Octavio , we meet the young boy as he is unable to read as he is sent by the doctor to the chemist luckily whilst embarrassed a woman named Venezuela like his homeland opens this young boys eyes to the power of words as the two fall in love , Don Octavio grows and we drift into the past of his homeland as the church arrives land is saved by a lemon tree that is seemed as a miracle . Then Don Octavio journey to the heart of his country and the jungle and sees how the country is and decides to stay there .This is one mans journey to the heart of his country and feeling in doing that .

Venezuela suffered from acute insomnia , which meant that for the past twenty years she had to nap at odd times of the day . She had grown used to irregular bedtime, sometimes eating in bed and getting up in the ,middle of the night roam her apartment. the doctor advised ger to stop taking her sleeping pills. Out of embarrassment, she began avoiding pharmacies where she might be recognised and ventures out to the little chemists shops in the suburbs where she could buy what she needed unnoticed amid the anonymity of the crowd

The woman who teaches Don Octavio to read but is she also an allegory for the home land in recent years .

This is of course a book that owes a lot to Marquez and even in someway I felt Calvino . There is a magic realism at work When Don Octavio seems to move back through the history of his homeland and that is what is at the heart of this book an ode to Venezuela , we here much of their recent trouble this is a look back at what is the beauty at the heart of the country a woman , the forest and the chance to make something of yourself like Don Octavio he is maybe a sign of what can happen in Latin America where one can become someone from none . Another books I was reminded of is G Cabrera Infantes book a view of dawn in the tropics which also like this book mixed fiction with the history of his homeland in Infante’s case Cuba here we see Bonnefoy in an ode to his homeland and a fable like tale of what was and maybe a feeling that is lost . This is under hundred pages long a perfect evening read .

 

 

 

The Eskimo solution by Pascal Garnier

Eskimosolution_weblarge

The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

French Noir fiction

Original title – La Solution Esquimau

Translators – Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

Source – review copy

I can’t believe that four years have flown since I first came across Pascal Garnier , when Gallic books sent me the first of thew late writers books and actually in the line of his publish” romans “(novels )the first .)I have reviewed four of his books before here is a link to the reviews. I have found his books funny and dark at the same time he had a very black humour that is all of his own. It safe to say every time a book o his drops through the letter box it is a treat.

Louis’s mother took all her medication for the week in one go on Monday morning so that she could be sure she wouldn’t forget. That was he best day of the week . She laughed at anything and nothing,spent an hour staring at the pattern on her waxed tablecloth, moved her knick-knacks about and invariably ended up embarking on a complicated recipe for which she only possessed a fraction of the ingredients. At eight O’clock, she collapsed in a heap for at least twelve hours .

Now this is a strange story that is set in Normandy a writer has taken a small cottage after an advance from his publisher he has taken to finish a novel he is writing. Now the novel is narrated by a man called Louis, and louis has a job and that is riding the world of Older people first he starts of with his own family member his mother and then spreads his wings and starts to help his friends with their relatives. with their older family members . Now the serial Killer Louis has been written in turn by the writer Louis and people around the writer louis of a certain age are also dying . Has his writing seep into the world or is he really Louis and a killer not a writer .

Ever day at the same time I go up to my study, read over these pages and ask myself,” What’s the point of writing a story I already know off by heart? “I’ve explained it to so many people that the tiresome formality of putting down on paper is about as exciting to me as opening the TV guide to discover The longest day  showing on every channel. In an ideal world I’d sell the story as it is, in its raw state, to someone who had some enthusiasm for writing it.Or didn’t but would write it all the same.

Louis with his story he knows so well maybe to well as it seeps into his world as he works on it himself .

This is one of the books that make you think as the lines between the real and written world blur for one man. I was reminded of the film stranger than fiction where Will Ferrel is a character in a book but doesn’t know it so is louis a character or the writer or one the same ?This as the novel moves on is harder to tell as the lines between them blur . What is being talked about and done by Louis  is  Seincide(killing the elderly )  as it is called is also what the title refers to this is where the Inuit used to place old people on the ice to float away and die .Many cultures have myths or old customs around killing the old and of course there is a number of books and films about it as well like Logan’s run where 30 is the oldest people can be or the novel wanting seed by Anthony Burgess which tackles over population and has various solution.,I feel this maybe was a writer playing with an Idea of real and written life blurring . He maybe could fleshed it out some more but, it is the usual length of his books which makes me wonder did he writer for a certain reader as I find his books can be read in an evening and keep ypou think all the next day and more in many cases. Another in the late writers Cannon and on his french wiki page it seems there is a number of other books still to come out .

French rhapsody by Antoine Laurain

French Rhapsody large

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title – Rhapsodie française,

Translator – Jane Atiken and Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Well two french novels in a week and the second here is the third book by Antoine Laurain I have reviewed I enjoyed the two earlier books the presidents hat and red notebook  Both of which have a similar nostalgic feel to this book. His earlier books have won two prizes . this is his third to be translated to english.

Paris 12 September 1983

Dear Holograms

We listened with great interest to the five track demo you sent us at the beginning of the summer. Your work is precise and very professional, and although it needs quite a bit of work , you already have a sound that is distinctive. The track we were most impressed by was “Such stuff dreams are mad on ” You have managed to blend new wave and old wave whilst adding you own rock sound.

Please get in touch with us so that we can organise a meeting

Best wishes

The letter Alain got telling him of Polydor like their demo now to find the other band member , I live the song title just out of the 80’s

The book has a clever framing device like his two earlier books a starting point to the past in a way in this case it is a letter that had been deleivered thirty years earlier, but had fallen behind something in the letter box and wasn’t discovered to the house had repairs done the letter was to ALain Massoulier and was a reply from the record label Polydor saying that they loved the demo from  the band he was in The holograms and now this is 30 years later and the various members of the band have long since lost contact so Alain goes on a journey to reunite the band and bring them to polydor 30 years late for their one chance .But where have the Band gone Alain is now a settled but maybe not happy GP others he decide to do the 21st century thing and google them , he has vague ideas but what are they the other three guys and one woman well one is one the verge of being the biggest french leader another was an artist that last big piece was a 25ft brain (that rein me of Jeff Koons for some reason ) , another was in the movies and the last in the rising voice of the far right french . This is a story of paths we take in life how could five people in a group end up so far apart and what would have happened if the letter had arrived well that is a twist in the story waiting 30 years to be told .

Who is JBM ? asked the front page of Le Figaro above a photo of the businessman. He had grey hair now, almost white at the temples, but still the same melancholy expression, the same cat-like smile. His hands were clasped in front of him and you could see the domed blue cufflinks . This photo must have been taken at conference .He looked as if he were listening attentively to something or someone

JBM a fellow Band member but has taken a very different path to his old band mate .

Laurain has a real eye for capturing the past this time with the music and memories and stoking the fires in ones own mind I was on the edge of a band , well hung out with them and suggest a few ideas after this book I was left wondering what had happen to them. Laurain captures that band time but also he has shown how one point can lead to so many different points how five people’s lives can take such drastic paths into art, politics , movies sort of , being a face in the crowd and being the cheerleader of a baying crowd in a way each could have been the other but they weren’t and it shows how fracture modern France can be at times. Another gem from a wry fun writer that in this one will make you think what if I had that letter or piece of Take hart or poem published

Have you read any of his book ?

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

 

Too close to the edge by Pascal Garnier

French noir fiction

Original title – Trop près du bord

Translator – Emily Boyce

Source – review copy

Its been a while since I reviewed a Pascal Garnier  I have reviewed three of his earlier books  , I have been lucky to been sent all his books by Gallic books and have read most of them he is always a joy to read. But a new year and a new cover on the series and this latest from the French Noir writer caught me from the blurb as one I would like. It is more than 6 years since he died, he wrote over sixty books it wasn’t til 2000 when the French publisher Zulma decide to collect his works under one publisher he had written books for various publishers over the years , this was published in 1999 a number of years before his death in 2010.

She was one fo those people who had always been and would remain attractive in a wholesome, obvious sort of way. She never needed to give nature a helping hand. Just a touch of lipstick now and then when she and Charles went out of an evening, purely for the raspberry-flavoured kisses. Even the few wrinkles gathered around her eyes brought a new charm to her face. It was as though time had polished her with beeswax. Only Charles’ passing had slightly dulled the sparkle in her eyes, and placed her smile in permanent parentheses.

eliette one those french woman who just look wonderful no matter what even at her age !

This is the story of one old woman, recently widowed Eliette , who lost her husband just before they where due to retire to their mountain home which they had spent many years doing up. Much to the dismay of her kids Eliette decides to carry on with her plans and she ends up in this huge house in the middle of nowhere. Her means of getting about is a small Aixam car (on a small aside I have seen these cars over the years and never knew they were french made ) which takes her on her weekly trip to the town to stock up , it is on one such trip that her vehicle breaks down just as she chanced on some new clothes to make herself feel younger and she meets the a stranger also stuck as his car has broken he helps her she then gives him a lift . Next day the son of a neighbour has been Killed in a bad hit and run, is it murder how did it could this good Samaritan be a killer ?

He appeared to be in his forties, not very tall, not especially thick-set, with a baby face. His shoes and trouser bottoms were covered in mud. As he set to work on the wheel, the rain began to drop like a portcullis. Eliette could not tear her eyes from his muscular back, which showed through his sodden shirt . He was finished in under ten minutes.

Her Hero or is he a kiler he helps her change the wheel on her car the next day a neighbours son is dead are the two connected ?

This is a classic piece of noir a stranger appears next day some one is dead. But it is also a look at growing old eliette is a woman on the edge of being old see is trying to keep young hence the rebelling and living by herself so when a charming young man helps her by the side of the road her heart flutters a beat. I do often wonder if Tales of the unexpected was popular in France at the time it was first shown in the UK as I often feel Garnier has a touch of that series in his writing A story that starts of about an oldish woman retiring into the middle of nowhere then the car breaks down is like a classic framing device that was often used in the Tales series of programmes. If you want a great piece of modern Noir Garnier is a must read I feel his books mix both the darkest parts of the human world and comic moments so well.

Have you read Pascal Garnier ?

 

Two new arrivals a Czech classic and French Noir

I’ve had a bad week really , some really bad news .So a couple of books arriving has brightened a morning up to what is a sad time at Winston’s tower .

innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly

First is a Czech crime novel the only novel from a writer better known for her non fiction work the biography  Under a cruel star .Heda Margolius Kovály was a Czech writer and translator , her book about the war and what followed from being a Jew in the Czechoslovakia . she lived in exile from the late 1950’s onwards ,where she worked as a translator translated many books from English to Czech including Raymond Chandler . I mention Chandler as John Banville has compared this book to his work .Set in Prague it follows the investigation into a murder at a cinema and the women that work as ushers in it .This is also translated by Alex Zucker .

boxes by Pascal Garnier

The second arrival today was Boxes the latest from Gallic books noir series , that has been putting out the novels of the Late Pascal Garnier .This one follows Brice and Emma a couple that have just moved into a new house . Their neighbour Blanche lives next to the grave yard and she says Brice looks like her Late father .

What books have you received recently ?

The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

The red notebook by Antoine Laurain

Original title – La femme au carnet rouge

Translators – Emily Boyce and jane Aitken

Source – Review copy

She drove her mother’s car, ’twas a 2cv
I was most impressed by her casual dress
I was most impressed
Inside her rented room colored deepest blue
I suppose we found some kind of happiness
To fill the emptiness
We were simply wasting precious time
Hiding from the cruelest summer sky
She took her mother’s car to get away from me
Heaven knows that i, I can sympathize
Oh I can sympathize
For we were never close if the truth were told
All we ever shared was a taste in clothes
Oh we were never close

I choose another romantic Lloyd Cole an early song 2CV  obviously a slight link in the title  to france as well .

 

Well another visit to france today .This is the second book by Antoine Laurain , I have reviewed here on the blog .The first The presidents hat was a real hit with me when I read it . Antoine Laurain has written five books and collects antiques .His books have translated into many  european  languages . There is a short questionaire with him on the Gallic books blog .

Laurant had never opened a woman’s handbag . He hadn’t opened his mother’s when he was a child and he hadn’t opened claire’s either . Occasionally he had been told , ” Take the keys from my bag ” or “There’s a pack of tissues in my bag ; you can take those . He had not touched a handbag without explict prior authorisation , more like a command that only vaild for a very limited time .

How this made me smile , I think most of us men have similar a expereience .

So The red notebook is similar in  premise to the presidents hat . Again the story starts with a lost item . This time it is a hand bag , unlike presidents hat the finder of this bag doesn’t know who the bag belongs too . The bag is in the hands of laurent Letellier a bookseller , when he finds  the bag  outside his shop .Having been lost when it’s owner was attacked in that spot  .He looks through the bags contents and comes across the red notebook and a few other items .One of these items is a signed novel by Patrick Modiano   . But none of these give a clue to the bags owner . So Laurent reads the notebook and through its content is drawn to its lady owner . what follows is a journey through the notebook and it;s notes .Along the way laurent meets the recent French Nobel winning writer Patrick Modiano . Can this notebook lead laurent to this women he has fallen for without even meeting . The charm of this story is a shy is guy trying to discover this women that to him seems very interesting .

He paused . Laurent stared at him . Only Patrick Modiano could tell you he didn’t remember the woman he had met in the street then immediately go on to give you a description that would have delighted any police force in the country .”Thank you , ” said Laurent in a low voice .

Had pick a line with Modiano in as it shows his respect in France that Laurain include him in this book

I was charmed again by this writers fiction .It’s not very lit , but has the same charm as you find in say the french films by Tati . What we see is one mans journey through Paris to find one woman . Along the way Laurain pays homage in a way to Modiano  both by putting him in the book as a character .But also the style of the book is in a small way  an homage to Modiano a detective novel without being a detective novel .This book is a perfect holiday book or train journey book . I love a book that leaves me with a smile after I have put it down . Sometimes we all need something that is both a page turner and fun to read . I really can’t wait too Gallic hopefully publishes the next book by him .

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

French fiction

Original title – Fleur de Tonerre

Translator – Melaine Florence

Source review copy

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

I choose the curse of milhaven , as lottie is a bit like Helene from NIck Cave’s wonderful album of murder Ballads ,source 

I struggle with historical fiction , I was one of the few people who didn’t really like Wolf Hall , so when this arrived from gallic books I wasn’t exactly jumping over the moon , but a quick read of the cover and I was caught by the tagline , She came , She cooked , She killed .Who couldn’t resist finding out more .I also want to try Jean Teule ,I know one of his earlier books Suicide shop is highly regard ,a multi talent man who also illustrates , makes films and is a Tv presenter , he has written ten novels and is married to the well-known French actress Miou-Miou .He is currently making a film of this book starring his wife .

Oh no,don’t pick that Helene , it’s a thunderflower .Goodness , that’s what I should call you from now on :”Thunderflower “. And don’t pull on that stem either ; it belongs to a viper flower .Don’t you know that a woman picked up a bunch of those and her tongue split in two ? You’re seven years old – when will you ever learn ?

Seven Helene gets her names and so much more !

The poisoning angel is based on the true story of Helene Jegado  , she was a french servant in 19th century France  .She is from  the Breton region of France , she was schooled via her mother in the old traditions of this region ,so this beautiful young girl grows up in the old world  .She starts working in households , we know her as thunderflower in the book ,which happens to be the original french title  .She travels around from household to household , doing various domestic servant jobs but mainly as a cook people love her cooking  , but what is she adding toi the pot as she cooks ! Now this is the twist in the tail Helene Jegado is one of the most notorious serial killers , as she travelled around in early 19th century France from town to town  , she is thought to have killed up to  36 people .We see her story , a mix of an ancient world of traditions and superstitions .It also shows how in a time when the end of people’s worlds tend to be with in their eyesight how some one could easily get away with murder .

“Helene Jegado is an excellent cook .My one regret is that I was unable to keep her until I die …. ” That’s what I call a glowing recommendation! This missive from the abbe … Lohro has no date .So since then ?

The humour is subtle at times in the book .

This book mixes  dark murder with comic touches so well . This for me is how true crime should be Helene comes to life as more than a woman who killed to more of a woman who by a stroke of fate and misguide sense of tradition want to be deaths henchman .It is a book like version of the murder ballads of the deep south of the US , where we hear the story of the murderer .Has it made me want to try more historic fiction ,well I think I will have more of an open mind next time one comes my way .AS for Jean Teule i have another of his books I was sent that will be jumping up my TBR pile .Jean conjures a world of ancient myths and traditions , and a young girl that thinks she is haunted by a ghost ,that becomes a killer .

Have you a favourite True crime novel ?

 

 

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide

9781908313690

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide 

French fiction 

Original title – Les caves du Vatican 

Translator – Julian Evans

Source  – review copy 

 

FBI Team Leader: It’s an interesting setup, Mr. Ross. It is the oldest confidence game on the books. The Spanish Prisoner. Fellow says him and his sister, wealthy refugees, left a fortune in the home country. He got out, girl and the money stuck in Spain. Here is her most beautiful portrait. And he needs money to get her and the fortune out. Man who supplies the money gets the fortune and the girl. Oldest con in the world

From the film spanish prisoner by David mamet  from imdb 

I have long been a fan of Gallic books ,they publish a wide range of books from France from crime  to lit fiction in translation ,so there discussion to start doing some classic French writers is great and where better to start than with Andre Gide ,one of the most well-known names in 20th century French literature .Born in Normandy he grew up in isolation really ,he started writing at age 21 .He is best known for his books Strait is the gate and the Immortalist , this book came out a few years after that just on the outbreak of world war one .Gide influence the next generation of French writers Camus and Satre in particular .

In 1890 , in the papal reign of Leo XIII , the reputation of DR X—- , a specialist in rheumatic diseases , persuaded Anthime Armand-Dubois , Freemason , to travel to Rome .

“What?” his brother-in-law , Julius de barglioul exclaimed “You’re going all the way to Rome to get your body look after ! I hope that when you get there you’ll realise how much sicker your soul is !”

One family heads to Rome .

 

Rhe Vatican cellars is the tale of French upper class society falling victim to a band of Con men called the Millipede .The story follows three families Armand-Dubois family live in Italy Anthime has recently convert to become a Christian after he has a miracle cure ,meanwhile in Paris His wife sister  Marguerite and her husband Julius sister  ,he has recently written  a book and are movers in the Literary world of Paris , the third family Amedee who is Julius sister anyway these three families end up as a target for the millipede who want them each to give them 20,000 francs as they have 140,000 to help free the real Pope Leo XIII as they make them believe that the Pope there now is a fake Pope .Along the way the is some sex and comic turns .

“To have lost a pope is a frightful thing ,Madame ,there is no doubt about it . But even more frightful is a false pope ! Because to conceal its crime – what I am saying  – to inveige the church into pulling itself apart and fatally weaken itself ,in place of Leo XIII the lodge has installed on the papal throne who knows what puppet of the Quirinal .

The crumbs of the fake pope and why it happened are sowed .

Now this book when it arrived I knew the plot somewhat as it is a classic Scam , called the Spanish prisoner ,where the dupe is lead to believe that some one has been change and replaced with a double or variations on that theme .I would suggest if you like to see a modern version of the scam watch the David Mamet film Spanish prisoner (a very underrated film ) .So this book has been out print for 25 years is a good choice for a reissue and new translation .For me yes it has a strong theme of god and the church ,but also at points is quite brilliantly blackly comic ,I think one of the reason it hasn’t been popular is the plot is at times quite drifting and it is easy to lose where you are ,a few times I had to turn back a couple of pages and check I had it right Julian Evans is very good with older books I am halfway through his translation of Foundling boy another book from Gallic books I am reading .I had read Gide once before about 20 years ago  and have  couple on my shelves to read ,I think it may be a bit less time between his books this time .

Have you read Gide ?

Under the Channel by Gilles Pétel

under the channel

Under the Channel by Gilles Pétel

French Crime fiction

Original title – Sous la manche

Translators – Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

Source – Review copy

Our Saviour. Two thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other (he searches for the contrary of saved) damned.”
– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot via CLASSIC LIT 

 

Gilles Pétel was born and brought up in Dunkirk , he studied Philosophy at the University of Nice , he then taught abroad for a number of year .He wrote his first book in 1996 ,this is his fifth novel and the first to be translated to English .He has taught in London during the Financial crisis working at a French school in London .

Roland really couldn’t face an argument tonight .He had only just left a crime scene .No matter how used he was to seeing dead bodies ,they still left him shaken, and he wasn’t prepared for coming home to a fight .

Roland and his wife are struggling when we first meet him in the book .

Well the  story of this book is in the Title a man is murdered Under the Channel ,the man John Bunny a Forty five year old Scottish man living in London working as an estate agent ,arrives on the Eurostar at Paris and is found dead .So the case of his death is given to Roland Desfeuilleres  A Forty year old married with kids ,his life is at a bit of a crossroads when he is given this case and goes to London to discover more about John Bunny and his life in London .But in doing so he maybe discovers that his life could of being something else with at first being wow by this man’s wonderful life in London ,but then he sees the flaws in it and what may have led to his death and also maybe learns something about his own life .

The doctor uncovered John Burny’s naked body , as the lieutenant looked impatiently on .Then he exclaimed :

“He’s in great shape ! how old did you say he was ?”

“forty-five ”

The victim looked younger than Desfeuilleres, although he was five years older .In spite of himself desfeuilleres felt envious ,jealous even ,hardly an appropriate reaction to the sight of the unfortunate man .

Roland sees John and maybe wants to see how this older man looked so much better than him .

Well this book is rather like a couple of series that have been on TV in recent year the bridge and the Tunnel ,what happens when a body is discovered or killed midway between two countries ,unlike those it is also a story of two men One alive and One dead .I felt the philosophy  that Gilles ,had studied in some way as these two men John and Roland ,so close in age yet so different in the own lives enter each others lives ,Roland will learn a lot from this journey to London  ,about himself , the modern world of money and power in the world and also what one man will give up to be on top in that world .Also it is a reminder of how great crime novels on trains or about trains can be ,from Murder on the orient express , through strangers on a train ,the edge by Dick Francis .As a train brings together people on a journey  that aren’t meant to know each other and 750 people in a eurostar it is a great place to try and hide a crime  or as here a murder .A clever book about two different lives colliding and neither being the same after .

Have you a favourite French crime novel

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