Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Party Wall by Catherine Leroux

The Party Wall / Catherine Leroux; translated from the French by Lazer Laderhendler.
Windsor: Biblioasis, c2016.
246 p.

This was probably the most unusual read of the Giller list for me this year. It's not a novel; it's a collection of recurring short stories that kind of link up but kind of don't, as they try to tell a larger story. Leroux is focused on pairs here; on duos, whether siblings, parent & child or otherwise.

Each story focuses on one pair: my favourites in the book were the sections on Madeleine & Madeleine. This character had a fascinating story, and her sections were complex and intriguing. Her son's story overlapped with others in the book, and throughout the book we see characters crossing paths, unknowingly intercepting one another as they move through their lives.

This is an odd, consciously "arty" book -- it was called "eccentric" on Goodreads, and I think that is a fair description of it. While I found some of the sections very lovely and thought provoking, there were others that felt like they didn't quite fit - at least for me. As long as you don't try to decipher a clear timeline you shouldn't drive yourself too nuts with it. For example: the story of Carmen & Simon, siblings who discover to their shock that they aren't actually siblings, was striking; but it didn't feel connected to the rest of the book.

Also, the sections focusing on Ariel & Marie had me rolling my eyes, quite literally. A futuristic Saskatchewan made unrecognizable by climate change; a married couple who seem heavily inspired by the Trudeaus, and a deep dark secret... I couldn't stand these two and their part in the story.  From their first introduction on the campus of my alma mater, McGill, I disliked them.

It's hard to describe or evaluate my experience of this book. My thoughts are a bit jumbled even after a few weeks thinking about it. This post makes it sound like I didn't like it at all. That's not it; I did enjoy a great deal of it. The inconsistencies of tone between the stories, and the inclusion of the futuristic political storyline between Ariel & Marie really reduced my positive reaction though. I'm glad to be introduced to another new-to-me Quebecoise author through the Giller, though -- I might not have found it otherwise -- and would definitely try again with another book by her if one appears in future.

Have you read it? Will you?

6 comments:

  1. I loved this one! But I know you are not alone in your mixed feelings for it. I do hope they translate her other books - I'd love to read more from her!

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    1. I liked a lot about it but didn't find it entirely successful as a whole, at least according to my preferences. I do like her style though, so have her on my list to keep track of in future!

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  2. This was the choice of this year's Shadow Giller Prize committee, so I'm definitely going to read it!

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    1. I saw that - thought that was an interesting decision.

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  3. I loved all the duos and especially what the Ariel and Marie chapters brought to the idea of wholeness/unity/individuality thing (without saying too much and risking spoilers), but about halfway through I did start to get very anxious about the sisters' chapters. *gulps* Anyway, I absolutely loved this one and was happy to see it claim the Shadow Giller. I might try to brush up my French to try her first novel even!

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    1. Read it in French! You're braver than I.... I'm glad you liked the Ariel & Marie chapters; I thought that someone would - just not me ;)

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Thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you will leave your comments and reflections to let me know what you think!