Review soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting...moreReview soon, but for now, I'm looking for a new home for this book, so if anyone in the US would like my copy, it's yours for the price of commenting first. (less)
I can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjec...moreI can't begin to tell you how much I hate star ratings. They don't really reflect a) how much I enjoy/can't stand a book, and b) they're rather subjective at best. But I'll go with a 3.75 here.
The blurb for this novel by Times UK reads "an absorbing psychological thriller," and I'd go along with the "absorbing" part of that statement. Thriller, no. So if that's what you're expecting, forget it. However, getting back to absorbing, that's precisely what it is -- with some very twisty bits along the way. I've done a longer review with a highlightable spoiler section (since I give an opinion on what would have been a better ending) at the crime page of my online reading journal; if you go there, be sure you've read the book before you start highlighting.
here's the gist:
A woman in her 70s returns to her family home after being away for some time in a convalescent hospital. Her physician son, Martin, comes every so often to see her to make sure she's okay; otherwise her only company is her housekeeper, and Elsa Préau has a lot of time on her hands. One Sunday afternoon, she is awakened from her nap by the sound of a swing squeaking and the sounds of children at play. Watching out her window, she notices a little girl and two boys outside playing in their back yard. Watching the Desmoulins children becomes a pastime for Elsa, and she notices the same thing every week: the little girl playing with her younger brother, while the older boy sits still and quietly, "constructing totems with bundled twigs and flat stones" under a weeping birch tree. The more she watches, the more she notices that the older boy has very little interaction with the rest of the family. She also never sees him with the other children when they're out walking with their father. She starts keeping a record of what she sees, along with other observations, in a small moleskin notebook, writing about the dirty condition of the older boy's clothing, his grayish skin, that he only went outside on Sundays, and that he never played with the other two. She's drawn to him not only out of curiosity, but because he has an incredible resemblance to her grandson. In her notebook, she begins to refer to him as "the stone boy." Determined to get to the bottom of things, she starts asking around, only to find out that according to the local school, the social welfare office, and the little girl herself (who has started taking piano lessons from Elsa), that there are only two children living in the house behind Elsa's wall -- that the "stone boy" does not exist. Elsa decides it's time to take matters into her own hands.
I am of two minds about this book. First, I thought it was very well written, especially because the author has constructed a story that plays quite nicely on reader expectations and then proceeds to turn them all on their respective heads. Ms. Loubière also weaves some powerful contemporary issues into the story through Elsa's letters to the mayor and other officials as well as in her notebooks and in the last few pages where all is revealed. I have to admit to being so wrapped up in this story that everything else just sort of fell by the wayside and I accomplished absolutely nothing at all during my day while reading it. But after finishing it, I realized that this book could have had a much better ending that unfortunately I can't reveal without giving away the show (hence the above-mentioned highlightable spoiler section at the reading journal blog).
A book that had me as wrapped up in it as this one did can't help but be good, and I'd definitely recommend it. This is not going to be one of those novels that goes down in the annals of great literature, but it's a great way to while away the hours on a rainy day. It's also an amazing character study much more so than it is a thriller, and the way the writer plays with our heads is simply topnotch, ultimately delivering a one-two punch that will hit you in the gut.