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Stories We Tell Ourselves

2.82  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Frank and Joan's marriage is in trouble. Having spent three decades failing to understand each other in their unfinished house in the French alps, Joan's frustrations with her inattentive husband have reached breaking point. Frank, retreating ever further into his obscure hobbies, is distracted by an epistolary affair with his long-lost German girlfriend. Things are gettin ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 2018 by Apollo
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Average rating 2.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  170 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This book had some wildly funny moments actual laugh out louds. However the book felt disjointed and jumpy. Parts of the book were incoherent at times, I’ll assume that’s probably a translation issue. There are multiple story lines of affairs, unhappy marriages and general disgruntlement, it’s chaotic with plenty of bursts of humour. So if you can look past the bipolar style of writing there’s a lot of fun in between the pages, it just lacks a consistent flow to make this book a better book as i ...more
Unfortunately both the story line (what there was) and the characters failed to engage me. Apart from Joan and Cole, all the characters seemed overly self-absorbed and/or absorbed in conducting affairs with other people (at least one of whom sounded like a particularly unattractive individual). I found the pace of the book very slow and the sections written from the point of view of one occupant of the household rather weird. I found myself distracted by small things such as the overuse of comma ...more
Elaine Mullane
Jan 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
I started this book because it was about complex family relationships and dynamics. Set in France and focusing on the marriage between the two lead characters and their three children, I thought this would be a piece of fiction I would enjoy. However, I got about 25% into the book before I decided to move on from it. And it's not often I don't finish a book (I think I have just two or three on my DNF shelf).

Here's what irked me: the narration was confusing, the plot uninteresting and
Arja Salafranca
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“They were all adults. They were all entitled to ruin their lives, and to love.”
“And what was a relationship if not a to-do list?”
“Time, which is damage, has made the letters soft like a heartbeat.”

On the cusp of Christmas Eve, the family gathers for the traditional get together – but this year there are simmering tensions. Frank and Joan’s marriage is faltering. Is he having an affair? Why is he spending so much time on his computer in his study – effectively absenting h
Mr Williams
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book brings the stories, of six members of a family meeting at their home after years of not being in the same place at the same time. The event brings out old memories and recent tensions in a funny and dramatic two week Christmas holiday. The candid realities of their lives take time to come out and dispell the facade of a typic family get together, and the book is no thriller, but I loved the setting, relational mess the characters find themselves in and the silent spectator role the dog ...more
Javi Garcia-Alzorriz Barrenengoa
Great book. You really get into each character's insights and their individual thoughts. Brilliant representation of how infidelities and affairs (in many different levels) are part of a family reunion. Entertaining and highly recommended!
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It's not quite the Christmas relatives gathering from hell - but it comes close, in this sharp yet affectionate look at family relationships under stress. I found the style of narration from multiple viewpoints rather confusing at first, until the individual characters emerged, but I gradually became engaged with the shifting family dynamics. I particularly liked the family in-jokes and traditional Yuletide lore, like the ‘mystery Calvados’ that was a present from an uncle in Normandy and never ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Frank and Joan have been together for thirty five years, they have three children; Lois, Maya and William, two grandchildren Gitsy and Finn and a dog, Simon. For the first time in five years, the whole family will be reunited for Christmas in their family home in the French Alps, with several of their relationships struggling the books follows their attempt to pull together for a perfect family Christmas.

I ended up giving this two stars, I was expecting a bit more to happen but this
Aug 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: struggled, netgalley
I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.

Put simply, I didn't like or enjoy this book. The story follows a family, and how dysfunctional they all are in their different ways and problems. I thought this would make for interesting reading, and perhaps it would have done, if I had managed to get along with the writing. I found everything so disjointed, which often left me feeling confused. I struggled to remember who was who, and what was going on,
CJ James
Dec 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Literally could not follow what was going on. A whole family all married but all having affairs... sadly this one got left on the plane...
Emi Bevacqua
Frank and Joan's marriage is in trouble, they live in a house somewhere in Europe (seemingly Brittany, but it seems hardly anybody speaks fluent French) and their three kids are coming home for the holidays. Daughters Lois and Maya are both unhappy at their respective homes - despite being married to Nick who comes home with just-because flowers, and unanimously agreed upon as perfect Cole - and son Wim promptly breaks up with his girlfriend next-door upon his arrival. There were a lot of extram ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Stories We Tell Ourselves focuses on the interactions of members of a family during a Christmas gathering. Events that have occurred in each person’s distant and recent past impacts significantly on the dynamics of events and relationships during the family get-together. The joy of this book is in the richly drawn characters and the way we are invited into each of their lives. We are even given glimpses into the musings of Simon, the dog. Simon observes all, and sensibly allows his head rather t ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
The grandfather, two daughters and dog in a family are all having affairs, some physical and some over the internet. They meet up over Christmas with their respective partners and feel guilty or long for their illicit loved one.

The book examines the relationships between the family members and how their affairs affect the other parties. Ultimately Frank's (the grandfather) unhealthy eating, lack of exercise and guilt lead to him having a heart attack. However I didn't feel too upset by this, he
Cassie Holland
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
A story about a family coming together for Christmas. Frank and Joan co-exist in their partially complete home and look forward to their grown-up children arriving. Each person had their own viewpoint on the past and these are laid out in this novel. I was totally perplexed with the narration form the dog’s point of view.
The emotional interactions all feel flat and I wonder if this is due to the translation?

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an hon
Natacha Ramos
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
It’s an interesting story. I think I had never read something like this before.

Characters are very complex. They are mysteries to be explored instead of problems to be solved, as I heard somewhere.

There is this common thread that connects the reality each member of the family is going through, so it is evident that the dynamic they all created while living together shaped the way they see life and do things.

My favorite was Lois, though. For some reason I could
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
"‘I want to tell you something,’ he said. ‘No, you don’t.’
‘If you wanted to tell me something, you’d just tell me,’ she said … ‘This preamble means you’re either scared to tell me or you don’t know how to.’"

Frank and Joan’s marriage is in trouble. The have spent three decades failing to understand each other in their unfinished house in the French alps. Joan’s frustrations with her distracted husband have reached breaking point. Frank, retreating into his shrouded hobbies, is distracted w
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This one was hard to put down. A family get-together at the end of the year, with the inevitable expectations, disappointments and stresses this entails. To add to this, the characters are each caught up in varying degrees of personal disaster or potential for, and mostly trying to figure out where to go next. There is a delightfully canny canine intrigued by what is going on and trying to get some attention too. Beautifully written, some surprisingly tangential sub – stories that keep you guess ...more
Gillian Malone-Johnstone
Intriguing but not so memorable.

I thought this book started poorly, the salt reference seems obscure and uninteresting as a uniting force between the family. But push on past these first few pages as it does improve...

It picked up with some interesting insight into the life of each of the characters, the most entertaining and poignant of which I found to be Simon the dog!

I did find that the daughters, in particular Lois, seemed somewhat dismissive of her mothe
Neha Garg (thereadingowl_)
When I requested for this book for review, I knew it was family drama but I had hoped to read something light, happy, and encouraging where a family comes together for Christmas and sorts out all that is wrong with them. Stories We Tell Ourselves is anything but that. It is sad, gloomy, and painfully slow.

This is the story of Joan and Frank and their family. Once happy, their lives have fallen into a pattern of Joan collecting the memories and Frank refusing to be a part of creating
Jan 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
I got this book through a monthly book club subscription and it was quite possibly one of the worst books I've ever read. There were too many characters (all with bland, boring, 4 letter long names). The book tripped from character to character with no warning. And perhaps worst of all, the writing was choppy and disjointed. While the review on the back said it was "a wonderful, warm and intimate portrayal of family life - sublime, quiet observations lit up by fierce flashes of humor", I'm prett ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
I've read the book in a day, but that's simply because I'm participating in a readathon. And it's less than 300 pages. I get the feeling that I wouldn't have found myself rushing back to pick this book up if none of that had been the case, which is a shame.

I guess the best way to describe how I feel about this book is indifferent. I was kind of waiting for the big climax. But nothing. There is a sort of climax but I didn't feel like I particularly connected to any of the characters e
Anne Goodwin
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Frank and Joan have raised three children in a village in the French Alps. Just as the house, designed by Frank, remains unfinished, their adult children are not as settled as they might hope. But now everyone’s coming back from Christmas, along with a couple of grandchildren and sons-in-law. But there are cracks in all three marriages, and it’s hard to tell who will emerge from the festivities intact.
Full review
Beneath the surface calm: Stories We Tell Ourselves & And the Wind Sees A
Heidi Svendsen
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is set up as someones memory. It feels real, but with time, details have been forgotten. I never felt a part of the memory, I felt like an intruder in the house. I felt like I was watching a Christmas in someone else house where I was not invited.

The story was flat, and nothing spesial happened. I did not feel that ut was surprising in any way. The ending came to quickly. The ending felt like the types of "I have written myself into a corner, not knowing how to end".

Emma Leeworthy
I received a free copy of 'Stories We Tell Ourselves' in exchange for an honest review.

I'll have to admit, I struggled slightly with the complexity of the characters in this one. I found there to be so many different little stories that it all got a little confusing, and in the end it really felt like there was no proper outcome to the story.

There were parts that made me laugh, and parts that I enjoyed, but as a whole, I really did struggle.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book had so much potential and seemed to change direction whilst I was reading it - and sadly not for the better.

Confused and disjointed and sadly none of the characters 'did' anything - the best one was Simon the Dog - the concept of writing 'chapters' as the dog I loved, sadly the rest of the book was not paced enough for me.

This was an ARC from NetGalley but the opinions here are all mine!
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Some great writing, especially on the weariness of long-term relationships and the strains of infidelity. And the parts from the dog's point of view are very sweet. There are too many characters though, and none of them fully realised. She jumps between cultures too in a way that's confusing and unanchored rather than being interesting.
Should've been a longer and better edited book.
Jane Gregg
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This lyrical novel explores dynamics in an unravelling French family where it seems 4/5 of the members are engaged in affairs of the heart with persons other than their partners. The dog plays an observatory role here, commenting in wildly amusing asides. Translated from French, this reads as a perfect candidate for an Arthouse film. I found the writing to be outstanding.
Mar 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
I received a review copy of Sarah Francoise's Stories We Tell Ourselves from Netgalley, but gave up after the first chapter, as I was not enjoying it. I did not find that this novel was very well written. The very poor reviews on its Goodreads page too put me off a little, but I knew from the first few pages that this was not a book which I wanted to spend much time on.
Barbara Rohde
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A gentle story about the relationships within a family who reunite for
Christmas. There is no heavy drama here but more of an exploration of relationship dynamics between the parents and their adult children Lois, Maya and William and their partners. A common thread is how these different relationships manage a third person in the relationship and much is left up to the reader to interpret.
Kathy Moore
DNF'd at 100 pages. I found it very difficult to focus on either the constantly jumping plot or the bland yet unlikable characters - a load of people just cheating on their partners isn't edgy or interesting to me. I also felt like the prose was constantly trying to be incredibly deep and moving, but it just comes across as trying too hard (and often the long metaphors make absolutely no sense).
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