I read a lot (as you may have surmised from last night’s post), and I’m also trying to blog more, so perhaps now I will inflict a book review upon you, my dear readers! After all, I’m a librarian, so I’m supposed to talk about books, right? 🙂 My latest read was a novel called The Confidant by Helene Gremillon, which I guess I might describe as a sort of insane World War II-era romance set in France. I bought this book at the Tattered Cover, a very cool bookstore in downtown Denver, when I was in town for the Digital Library Federation conference. I wandered in with no particular book or even genre in mind and just looked around at what was new and recommended. This book was one of the four I walked out with.
The story itself does veer perhaps a bit into soap opera territory in its drama, but I liked the mystery it built. For toting around when you’re running from one flight to the next, it’s quite nice. It starts when Camille, a French woman whose mother has just died, starts receiving strange letters addressed to her from a man she’s never heard of. The letters tell the story of a young couple right before World War II and all the really crazy stuff that happens to them, and Camille has to figure out who these people are, why this guy is sending her letters, and how she’s connected to all of this. At a certain point it becomes a little predictable, but it’s a well-told, and interesting, story.
The main reason this book won my heart is that it’s got unreliable narrators all over the place. I wrote my master’s thesis on unreliable narrators, so I always love when I stumble upon a piece that manages to use them well. If you’ve never heard this term before, it refers to first-person narrators whose story cannot be trusted for some reason – mental illness, youth or age, drug or alcohol impairment, or just the fact that they’re lying. I wouldn’t call this particular book serious literature, but at least in the sense of making the story surprising, I find the author’s use of her various narrators to be very well done. Each of them tells their different stories, and every one sounds true and sincere, though in the end the narrators are all revealed to be bending the story for their own reasons. What I love about unreliable narrators is that I think that life really is like that – you could take two people and ask them the story of their relationship, and they would probably say very different things. Even without meaning to, people just notice different things and have a different viewpoint, so no two people would tell the same story.
So there you go! The Confidant gets the librarian’s endorsement!