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Ladivine: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 26, 2016
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“Unflinching and hypnotic…a psychological labyrinth, elegantly evoked in all its horror.. [NDiaye’s] work has [an] uncanny ability to grasp the deeply inflected nuances of the heart. The sharp-edged writing in Ladivine warrants spending time with her bleak vision... … NDiaye demands of the reader the same clear-eyed courage that she employs crafting this haunting, disturbing novel.”
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“A work of immense power and mystery…. Ladivine is a record of a trauma severe enough to haunt generations. It’s a wild ghost story, rooted in immigration and exile. The dislocated women of Ladivine are trapped in repeating narratives of violence and loss. They are all brave women who have come from a place where events in which they are involved have already occurred, events they are unaware of but are forced to revisit. It’s a form of self-belief, finally, that saves them, regardless of how grim their fates may appear. The ending of Ladivine is perfect, both poignant and strangely hopeful.”
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About the Author
MARIE NDIAYE was born in Pithiviers, France, in 1967; spent her childhood with her French mother (her father was Senegalese); and studied linguistics at the Sorbonne. She was only eighteen when her first work was published. In 2001, she was awarded the prestigious Prix Femina for her novel Rosie Carpe; in 2009, the Prix Goncourt for Three Strong Women; and, in 2015, the Gold Medal in the Arts from the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts.
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Style, and it's interpretation is clearly subjective, so this review is more of my inadequacy as a reader, rather than the merits of the book itself. The long and cumbersome sentences (examples at the end of the review), the almost clinical dissection into every thought and feeling (there are pages of ruminations over cracked yellow heels amongst many other things); not only overweighed any interest and desire to finish it, but left me resentful. I'm not sure if it's the writer, the translator, or myself not being a native speaker of English, but the language just didn't work for me.
Had I been in academia I might have been more appreciative of the deep character study, the skillful depiction in minute detail of the state of ambivalence of almost everyone, or the conflict between self actualization and duty, and the supernatural twists. But as someone who just wants to get lost in a good book, I did not care for all that much, because it felt overwrought and unauthentic. Maybe I just shouldn't have read it after Lucia Berlin's "A Manual for Cleaning Ladies".
Here are two examples of the writing :
"She didn’t dare admit it, but she was also afraid Marko would end up spotting the dog, and she delicately squeezed his hand and spoke any words that came to mind to keep Marko’s attention on her, his daughter Annika, who, though only eight, thought herself seasoned enough to calmly accept that her mother had chosen to look after them from inside the skin of a dog on the Droysenstrasse’s icy sidewalk, whereas her father, she thought, her poor distraught father, should he ever realize such a thing, could never accept it without even more grief than he already felt."
"Ladivine felt a shared astonishment briefly reuniting her with Marko, for what they now saw was nothing like even the vaguest image they’d conjured up of Richard Rivière’s friends, whom Ladivine, not quite knowing why, had pictured as a couple of grizzled drifters temporarily stranded by a lack of funds or a need for rest, but the dozens of clearly brand-new SUVs, white, black, and gray, parked in the clearing beneath sheet-metal roofs, and the big pink stucco house, which reminded Ladivine of certain villas in Langon, revealed the presence, deep in this forest, of prosperous car dealers, and why not, thought Ladivine with a stab of ill will, since that’s what Richard Rivière had become once he left Clarisse Rivière (as if Clarisse Rivière had somehow been keeping him down), having gone from assistant manager in Langon, at the Alfa Romeo dealership he’d been hired by just out of the lycée, to the head of a Jeep dealership in the Haute-Savoie, and Ladivine always wondered how he’d settled on that area, having, to the best of her knowledge (which is to say from what Clarisse Rivière told her), never spent any time there before going off to make it, perhaps forever, his home."
Four generations of related women feature prominently, all affected by the actions of one. Clarisse is daughter to one Ladivine, mother to another. As the book opens, she has been visiting her mother monthly for years, a fact she has kept secret from her husband and daughter, whose existence she keeps from her mother. Why she secretes one part of her life from the other does not become apparent immediately, and it does not make Clarisse a sympathetic character. Her secret weighs on her so heavily, her loving husband can no longer live with her, divorces her and establishes another life with yet another woman also named Clarisse. This juxtaposition of names is only one of the puzzling aspects of this thoroughly engrossing investigation into the power of a closely held secret and the effect such deception can inflict on entire families, rippling down through generations. It is also a novel about perception - as Clarisse and her choices provide the nexus of the plot, how she is perceived by those around her, including the reader. Initially, as said before, the reader is unsympathetic to her seemingly heartless treatment of her mother. To her mother, she is still a princess, a beloved daughter. To her grown daughter, she is remembered as kindness and innocence personified. To her ex-husband, she is an enigma he cannot unravel.
Written with both sharp-edged realistic detail combined with a whiff of magic realism, this is one I'll live with for a while.
The main character was a confusing mixture of selfishness and remorsefulness .
Identifying her mother as the servant was sad but necessary and one of the best parts of the book.
The psychological disfunction is almost surreal.
Then the real , surreal begins,
I no longer cared about the character. They seemed vehicles for the author constant stream of babble that we al suffer from.
The murders also made me feel that an important literally statement was being made but I couldn't connect.
Reading a translation always make some concepts more difficult to process but the story and character just became too difficult to like and were often unreachable.