Intriguing read about life

2009-12-02 00:00

VERONIQUE Ovalde has an unusual authorial voice. Her lyrical French tone comes through even in translation and it creates a slightly uncertain reality in her novel.

Is her chief protagonist, Lancelot, delusional? Or is he just an odd character enacting his daily life on a somewhat unusual canvas? One gets a few answers at the end but this novel, which was a bestseller in France in its original form Et mon Coeur Transparent, does not make answers a priority.

Lancelot works from home as an editor. His wife Elisabeth is a busy schoolteacher, always off on field trips and full of anecdotes about her pupils. All her words seem to wash over Lancelot as he focuses on keeping objects from disappearing around him. He lives in a haze of sorts, content to hear his wife’s endless tales, content to feel nothing more than the occasional satisfaction of getting a manuscript sent off.

Until he bumps into Irina. Or her shoe, really. Once Lancelot is hit on the head by Irina’s shoe flying out of a window, his life takes a dramatic turn. He leaves Elisabeth immediately. He moves in with Irina and then lives every second vicariously devoted to the experiences of his new wife. He is more or less content to be there for her while she goes off ostensibly on film shoots around the world.

When she is reported drowned in a river, in someone else’s car, Lancelot is forced to start thinking for himself. And the first thing that he has to decide on is whether he really knew his wife at all.

This is a pleasant and intriguing read. Ovalde’s writing style is poetic and verges on magic realism at times but in the end the novel is rooted in the harsh realities of the modern world.

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