Sunday, November 05, 2017

More than just a good read

Albert Bartholome: The Artist's Wife Reading (image from here)
In 1967 I was at university, and one of my courses covered French literature.  As relaxation from the heavier literature and philosophy I used to enjoy reading Simenon's Maigret stories.  I loved the plots, the settings, the descriptions, and most of all the characters - their ordinary and extraordinary lives.
That same year a baby was born whose books in the same vein I now enjoy:  I read The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet yesterday and finished it this morning.  I immediately felt torn from the characters and the atmosphere he so brilliantly creates.  The crimes are the incidents around which ripples touch lives and knock them off course - a little, or a lot.  It is the characters we are interested in.  The crimes are interesting, but perhaps most because they are the glass through which we view the players. It is not the extraordinary which is the focus; Burnet makes the quotidian compelling.
I also very much enjoy the setting - in Alsace, in France but almost on the border with Germany and Switzerland - it feels like a small town that lives independent of worldly fashion, where everyone knows everything and nothing about everyone.  I so enjoyed this book that I have been unable simply to move on to another, and chose instead to distract myself from my sinus headaches by watching the tennis in Paris and pottering through blogs - all the time turning over thoughts about aspects of the novel.
I shall have to exert patience until the hinted-at next volume is published.


  1. You've certainly piqued my interest! I don't think I'll wait for a cold to settle in with it. It sounds like just the sort of novel I enjoy. What's the point of reading a story if the characters aren't compelling and make you care about what happens next? Your reaction to the book sounds like how I was drawn into The Elegance of the Hedgehog, much of which I read while sitting on a bench at my beloved City Beach. The ending was so unexpected I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach, I'd come to care so much for these characters, and I had to walk around the park for quite awhile, quite upset, before I could settle enough to read the wrap-up chapters. It affected me for days! Haven't had a good read like that for some time, so I hope I find this book as engaging as you have.

    1. Sheila - I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog too - as you say, so engaging that I felt I actually lived with these people.
      What I would say about The Accident on the A35 is that in order to appreciate the characters fully I'd start with The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau.

    2. I often will do that with an author new to me, go back to the beginning before reading the current one. My library doesn't have The Accident on the A35 but I know they can get it for me through interlibrary loan. But when I followed your link I did see there were other books (that my library also doesn't have) so now know to start there. Thanks!

    3. Sheila, just to let you know that the book His Bloody Project is not about the same characters as The Accident on the A35. Nonetheless it is a most powerful novel - which led to it being shortlisted for a prize last year.

    4. I thought as much, when I went back to read the description of each title. I wasn't sure about reading that one, but now perhaps I will. As they say, so many books, so little time, and I have so many titles on my list! I guess I'm always looking for truly engrossing stories, and new authors to fill the gap when I run out of titles of a current favorite.