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A journey of discovery and a tale of a family...
on August 14, 2010
I really enjoyed this very interesting story about a French family and the unraveling of the "secret" that was at the heart of the mystery in this novel. Although set in modern day France, the narrative has a timeless quality about it as a forty-ish, newly divorced man, Antoine Rey, starts investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of his mother, Clarisse, after his sister Melanie is injured in an automobile accident after suddenly remembering something dramatically suspicious about their mother while the two of them are off on holiday.
While his sister is hospitalized and during her recovery from her injuries, Antoine becomes compelled to find out more about his mother and who she was and how she died since both of her children feel as if they never really knew her and the subject has never been talked about within the family. In the course of his inquiries, he discovers and faces the truth about a mother he loved deeply but lost far too soon.
Antoine is a very complex man who is simultaneously dealing with his love and longing for his ex-wife and their three children-- two of whom are surly and distant teenagers -- and with the sudden urge to finally know more about his mother. He suffers loneliness and self doubt, bored with his career as architect, and morose about his lack of close relationships with his children and his father's family. I found him an interesting character with a lot of depth and sentimentality that led to many moments of self examination and introspection. The other supportive characters were not so well drawn, but did provide the means for Antoine to interact with and to push the narrative along.
I read the novel in one sitting. I don't think the story is so much about the revelation of the secret or even the nature of it, but more about the process of discovery and about the importance of exploring the bonds of family relationships and about knowing each other. Do children really ever know their parents -- and should they know everything? It is human nature to question and to want answers to the age-old question -- "why"...