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Someone I Loved [Paperback]

Anna Gavalda
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 5 2005
The prize-winning author of I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere returns with a novel of an abandoned wife, and the profound relationship that unfolds between her and her father-in-law.

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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.

From Booklist

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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5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, truthful, and merciless Jan. 16 2007
Format:Paperback
There is something heartbreakingly simple about Someone I Loved. The novel follows the story of Chloe, whose husband had just abandoned her with two small children. Devastated, she is comforted by her father-in-law Pierre, who shares secrets from his past.

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.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating May 15 2005
By Nathaniel Horn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What a wonderful, piercing book. It is basically a conversation between the daughter-in-law and her father-in-law, first starting with the pain she is experiencing from the betrayal of his son. Then he unexpectedly begins to open up, revealing a most astonishing relationship that he had in his younger years. It is all the more startling because the author used the "Old Bastard" as the vehicle for this beautiful tale. There are many cautionary lessons in the narrative but, in the end, it was the emotional impact that I was left with. Very creative. Gavalda, a French woman, has such a lovely way of imbuing men with undeserved humanity. It turned out to be different than I expected. I don't think that I'll ever again mutter under my breath "Damned French". It was short. When I got half way through it, it started over again, in French! It was hard to get into at first, then it caught on. If I had not luckily first read the flaps I would not have even understood the context of the narrative. It moved me deeply. By the time I finished it I was in disarray and all choked up. I am anxiously looking forward to reading her other novels.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, unsatisfying ending June 22 2005
By Bearette24 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the story of a woman who's just been abandoned by her husband, and you think it will be about that betrayal, but no. She ends up taking a trip with her father-in-law and her own daughter (who is young, and only appears once or twice) and they have a long, fascinating conversation about all the father-in-law's buried emotion for a woman he fell in love with while he was married to someone else.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, A Love Story Aug. 20 2013
By James W. Fonseca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this French translation, a young wife has just found out that her husband has packed his bags and left her and their two daughters for another woman. Shocked, she travels with her (soon-to-be-ex) father-in-law to a family vacation cabin to recover. The father-in-law has always been stern, judgmental and non-communicative to her. At the cabin we hear a wonderful love story but it's not the one we would have expected.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Dec 13 2010
By Miklos C. Kiss - Published on Amazon.com
I liked the way this book explored the motiviations, consequences, and aftermath of puruing or not pursuing romantic love. Like all French thinkers on the subject, the effects on the children are glossed over in the selfishness of pursuing personal fullfillment of romantic desires. Yes, there is some courage to pursuing romantic love and ditching your family, however why can't people wait until the kids are grown?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, poetic prose Feb. 1 2010
By Bluestalking Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"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.
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