From Publishers Weekly
In this first translation of veteran French novelist Dubois, Gallic everyman Paul Blick experiences decades of turmoil and tragedy, and conscientiously adds each mishap-whether national or personal-to his bleak philosophy. A native of the southern city of Toulouse, Paul loses his beloved brother in childhood, flirts with the revolutionary side of the '60s during his student days and finally sells out to marry Anna, the proud daughter of an aggressively capitalist family. Peaceful domesticity eventually gives way to Paul being unfaithful, and to his newfound passion for photography, which in turn brings him fame. Each section of Paul's life is titled with the name of the French president at the time ("Charles De Gaulle"; "François Mitterrand") and not-so-subtle parallels are drawn by Paul between his shifting discontent and his country's restlessness, climaxing in a series of random tragedies. Dubois's sense of irony and the absurd-Paul's fascination with snapping photos of trees and beetles, a friend's teenage sexual exploits with a roast turkey, Anna's hauteur as CEO of a Jacuzzi company-is compelling. But while Paul's grim discourses may be an integral part of his character, they don't add much to the story.
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It is not a typical French life but rather an amalgamation of personal and national experiences felt throughout France in the latter half of the twentieth century. Whether evoking the social upheaval of 1968 or the apprehensive coming of the millennium, Dubois sculpts a tale of one man simultaneously excited and worried about his changing world. Paul Blick—born, raised, and living in Toulouse—suffers the loss of his older brother, embraces liberalism, rambles through his twenties, marries a capitalist, raises a family, and stumbles upon a small fortune as a nature photographer. Nothing of this life seems too extraordinary. The events of the story are not Dubois' intent, however. Rather, the achievement and purpose of Vie Francaise is in the analysis of these events, the individual construction of personal and national meaning. Paul Blick often seems disenchanted and content when alone, yet as he ages, his dwindling family becomes a growing comfort. With equal parts laughter and sorrow, Dubois has provided something significant: a personal narrative carved from national identity. Parsons, Blair Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved