Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Perfect Circle

The Perfect Circle by Pascale Quiviger
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's review
Sep 27, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, 2006

This is not a quick read, it's not one for the subway or your lunch break, but it is one for delving and imagining and running off to Italy with.

It opens with a passage in the second person, never easy to read at the best of times but hang in there, it tells the unnamed narrator's story in a nutshell, a very sad, lonely nutshell, and sets the premise for the rest of the story: to tell the story with names changed, to create some distance perhaps, or to handle the emotions and learn from them. It has an autobiographical feel but that's simply the author's skill.

The rest of the novel tells the story as fiction, with Marianne meeting and falling in love with Marco, going back to Montreal and then borrowing money to fly to Italy again as soon as Marco invites her. He lives in a small village by a lake where two tourists drown every year, where everyone fishes. He owns the terrace house he grew up in but doesn't live there, leaving it empty while he eats and sleeps at his mother's house next door. The entire street is inhabited by his family, with aunts all around.

Marianne is not exactly welcomed. They like to talk about her, but not to her. She has the same conversation over and over again: "Are you German?" "No, I'm Canadian" "Oh, Marco's girlfriend." She wrestles with his mother for the right to cook for him, but can't please either of them. While Marco, a plumber, drives off early in the morning to do his thing, Marianne spends lonely days drawing or walking by the lake, until eventually she takes a horribly underpaid waitressing job at a busy restuarant.

This is one of those books that has to be read more than once to fully grasp, understand and appreciate every word. The writing style is like poetry and philosophy, not always easy to read or follow, but revealing so much in precise movements. It's a fine example of writing as art, or music, and you cannot help but be right there with Marianne as she experiences something so familiar yet so bitter. And it is a familiar story, sadly so, yet the ending justifies the whole ordeal as Marianne grows and faces the truth. Marco is a sad character, content with his life, not willing to change, unreachable in the most important ways. He too is familiar, as is his mother, never mind that they are Italian - it just shows how similiar we all can be.
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