"Every thought drew me closer to the bottom. I was so tired. I shut my eyes. I dreamed that he had arrived. There was the sound of the engine in the courtyard, he sat down next to me, he kissed me and put his finger on my lips in order to surprise the girls. I can still feel his tenderness on my neck, his voice, his warmth, the smell of his skin, it's all there.
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.