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