Someone I Loved Paperback – Apr 5 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Gavalda's slim second novel, published here in back-to-back English and French versions, tells a spare, dialogue-based tale of a young, abandoned wife. Chloé, mother of two, is in shock after her husband, Adrien, leaves her for another woman. In an improbable move, her laconic father-in-law, Pierre, rescues her, driving Chloé and her daughters to his country house, where they spend a few surprisingly therapeutic days together. While in the country, Pierre gives Chloé an extended account of an extramarital affair of his own. His dalliance was based on real love, and this, ironically, comforts Chloé. Gavalda's prose style is refreshingly elliptical, though often the reader longs for more than a scrap of exposition. At the book's best moments, mundane details mingle with Chloé's despair to create an even deeper sadness: while cooking dinner with Pierre, Chloé reflects, "I cried, thinking occasionally about how the spaghetti was going to be inedible if I didn't add some oil." But Gavalda's prose can also lurch clumsily between triteness and sarcasm: "Go to the ends of the earth, clamber over thickets, hedges, ditches, get a stuffy nose, cross old Marcel's courtyard, and watch Teletoons while eating strawberry-flavored marshmallows. Sometimes, life is wonderful...." Such awkward pathos weighs down Gavalda's airy tale. (Apr. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
One publishing "innovation" marking the century's turn is the use of slide-presentation software to compose novels. These PowerPoint creations are tailored to indulge decreasing attention spans in terms of overall and individual segment length (there goes deep characterization) and to require minimal adaptation for the movies. At first, Gavalda's super-slim international best-seller seems to fit that model perfectly (its high page count derives from its appendix: the entire text in the original French). Its inciting incident is minimal. But is what follows? Adrien Dippel leaves his wife, Chloe, and their two small girls for another woman. The tale unfolds from Chloe's brokenhearted point of view in bursts of dialogue as her father-in-law, breaking 42 years of silence about his own infidelity, bares his soul to her, and the two huddle over the kitchen table eating, drinking, consoling, attacking, and regrouping. Using the conversation to explore the motivations and nuances involved in marriage, and bringing to life some exquisitely delineated characters and their familial bonds, Gavalda's novel is anything but calculatedly shallow. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
With this book, Anna Gavalda has demonstrated not only a unique style of writing but also a deep understanding of human character. Gavalda uses simple words, simple structure, and simple gestures that accurately portray and reflect real life human beings, and not merely characters a novel. The dialogue followed naturally and smoothly, allowing the reader to feel as though he/she was part of their intimate circle. However, a weakness is the transition of the dialogue, which makes it difficult for the reader to tell who is speaking next.
Gavalda's writing is mercilessly truthful, there is no room for pity or denial. She covers the idea of love from several angles: Chloe being left by her husband and Pierre refusing to leave his wife Suzanne for another woman who proved to be the love of his life. We feel the desperation felt by Chloe. We feel the unfairness felt by Suzanne whose husband is unfaithful. We feel the frustration of Mathilde who is with a man who refuses to give her the love she deserves. The characters experience varying degrees of helplessness, and varying abilities to take their lives into their own hands. Yet, we can easily picture ourselves as one of those women at sometime in our lives.
Some of the themes explored by Anna Gavalda strike very close to home: the impossibility of love lasting forever, the inevitability of parting, and the longing for those brief moments of bliss. Gavalda also introduces colorful supporting characters.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book is mostly dialogue, without tags, which sometimes bothers me, but didn't here. I loved Gavalda's short story collection, "I Wish Someone Were Waiting For Me Somewhere," and this novel displays the same gifts. She cuts to the emotional heart of the matter without sentimentality, and paints beautiful word-pictures.
That said, I thought the book ended on a flat note. After thinking about it, I knew what Gavalda was trying to express, but it just wasn't satisfying. It didn't resolve anything and it didn't make as vivid an impression as the other images and emotions in the book.
Still, it is worth reading, especially if you liked her short-story collection.
It's all there...
All I have to do is think about it...
How long does it take to forget the odor of someone who loved you? How long until you stop loving?
If only someone would give me an hourglass."
- from Someone I Loved
Anna Gavalda is one of those fantastic writers no one seems to know about. Maybe that's because not all her novels are translated from her native French into English. But in France she's certainly well-known.
Her short novel Someone I Loved is poetic, gorgeous, all those words of praise reviewers use, yet also a bit unexpected, with a surprising revelation that adds so much to the plot. The novel is of course heart-wrenching, something the French do well.
Main character Chloë and her two little children go to stay with her father-in-law after Chloë's husband walks out on her for another woman. At first seeming like a strike out of the blue, in hindsight Chloë sees all the clues were there: the late nights at the office, the vacancy and pained looks on his face, the withdrawal, etc.
Presuming his distant attitude and quick anger, Chloë had never been comfortable with her father-in-law, and it isn't clear why, exactly, she's gone to live with him rather than someone in her own family. Perhaps it was because he was the closest link to Adrien, her estranged husband. But as the days go by he begins to open up, sharing his own life story with Chloë, in an effort to prove to her she can survive this, and can go on, for the sake of her daughters.
The result, a resoundingly beautiful novel.