Veronica's Reviews > D'autres vies que la mienne

D'autres vies que la mienne by Emmanuel Carrère
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bookshelves: french-book-group, en-français, non-fiction

This book left me fairly baffled. I didn't understand why Carrère had written it, or why he structured it the way he did. He took two unrelated events: on holiday in Sri Lanka he witnessed the effects of the tsunami, and met a French couple who lost their four-year-old daughter. Later, after he and his partner return home, his partner's sister, whom he barely knows, becomes ill and eventually dies of cancer at the age of 33. Well, there is a connection between these events I suppose: him. Why did he feel qualified to publish a book about them? There are some moving moments as you try to fathom how it must feel to lose your child in a moment, or what it's like to lie on a hospital bed with your dying wife. But mostly I just wondered where it was all going. At the end, he clumsily brings back the family of the tsunami victim -- they've kept in touch, but don't seem to have become close friends.

Juliette, his sister in law, was a magistrate in a local court, dealing with consumer issues and personal debt (curiously the dead child was also called Juliette). For some reason he includes a long section, fifty pages or so, in which he interviews her colleague Etienne and after telling you all about Etienne's life history recounts more than you ever wished to know about French law on surendettement. Etienne and Juliette are concerned not just with legal justice but social justice, and spend a lot of time figuring out ways to invalidate "revolving credit" contracts gullible people have signed, much to the disgust of the large financial companies involved (Incidentally they are also both disabled as a result of childhood cancers which is what first creates a bond between them). Eventually they get the European Court of Justice involved and are thrilled to gain a victory over the credit companies. Reflecting on it, perhaps the point of this section is to demonstrate that even people apparently in relatively dull, trivial jobs can gain enormous satisfaction from them, and do their bit to relieve human misery -- as a result of Juliette and Etienne's actions, many very poor people had their debts reduced or cancelled altogether. Its also perhaps a way of acknowledging his self-centredness: showing interest in "lives other than his own".

So I'm eager to find out what the French people in my book group think of it all. Maybe they can explain it!

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Reading Progress

December 30, 2017 – Started Reading
December 30, 2017 – Shelved
December 30, 2017 – Shelved as: french-book-group
December 30, 2017 – Shelved as: en-français
December 30, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
January 2, 2018 – Finished Reading

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