There comes a moment during our childhood when we start viewing the world differently. What used to be all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows becomes a dark, scary, unknown nightmare of confusion and loneliness. Our childhood abandons us, leaving us to fend for ourselves, and I hate to say it…grow up.
Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Real Life (Published 4 February 2020) By Adeline Dieudonné. A big thank you to the publishers World Editions for my copy to review, always appreciated. And also to the lovely Anne for the invite, thank you!
About The Author
ADELINE DIEUDONNÉ was born in 1982 and lives in Brussels. A playwright and short-story writer, her first novella, Amarula, was awarded the Grand Prix of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Two further booklets were published by Editions Lamiroy in 2017: Seule dans le noir and Bonobo Moussaka. Real Life was recently awarded the prestigious Prix du Roman FNAC, the Prix Rossel, the Prix Renaudot des Lycéens, and the Prix Filigrane, a French prize for a work of high literary quality with wide appeal. Dieudonné also performs as a stand-up comedian.
ROLAND GLASSER is an award-winning translator of French literature, based in London.
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Translated from the French by Roland Glasser.
At home there are four rooms: one for her, one for her brother, one for her parents … and one for the carcasses. The father is a big game hunter, a powerful predator; the mother is submissive to her violent husband’s demands. The young narrator spends the days with her brother, Sam, playing in the shells of cars dumped for scrap and listening out for the chimes of the ice-cream truck, until a brutal accident shatters their world.
The uncompromising pen of Adeline Dieudonné wields flashes of brilliance as she brings her characters to life in a world that is both dark and sensual. This breathtaking debut is a sharp and funny coming-of-age tale in which reality and illusion collide.
‘A magnificent heroine of freedom and intelligence’ Le Figaro.
From the moment I started reading this book, I was hooked. I honestly could not put it down, I was enthralled. This book is just so GOOD! The reader follows the narrator over a number of years as she stumbles through the last stages of childhood before tripping head first into adolescence. Told in 1st person of a ten year old girl (her name is never mentioned) she lives with her family in a 4 bedroom house. 1 bedroom for her, 1 for her six year old brother Sam, 1 for her parents and one for the carcasses. The reader quickly learns that the father works as an accountant at an amusement park and is also big game hunter. He regularly abuses his family with his beatings and vile words. The mother is submissive and gives into his demands. Both parents are absent in the upbringing of their children as the narrator takes on the role of a loving mother to her younger brother, teaching him everything she knows. They spend their days playing in broken cars in a scrap yard while awaiting the blissful tune of the ice cream truck. That is until one day an horrific accident explodes right in front of them and they are left to slowly gather and collect the remains, alone.
The relationship between the narrator and her brother changes drastically the further into the plot you dive. They become strangers as the bond that united them is cruelly broken. Sam no longer wants to play with her and distances himself. It is agonising to read as the narrator is alone with her thoughts and doesn’t have anyone to talk to. She can’t speak to her mother whom she sees as an amoeba, barely there and making herself invisible to avoid further beatings. Her relationship with her father is non-existent, he doesn’t listen and isn’t interested. He just shouts and directs his anger towards her. Sam was the only one she could talk to and when that is tragically taken away from her, she starts to view the world differently. Her fantasies about building a time-machine to go back and stop the accident become silly as her reality turns bleak. Her parents don’t even attempt to talk to them about the accident, to explain what actually happened. They just ignore it and carry on which only damages these characters more. It makes you realise how short our time is as a child. That no matter how much we want to play pretend and dress up, the reality of life is always waiting and watching within the shadows.
The narrator begins to view her life as a rough draft. She focuses on it intensely and tells herself that it is intended to be rewritten. She no longer worries about her actions or their consequences as she assumes she can wipe them all clean as she is going back in time to change things. This makes it more bearable for her to cope with the after effect of the accident. Life before was different, a little easier and not so brutal. Life after is a struggle. Her body also starts to change as she experiences puberty and sexual desire as she obtains a babysitting job so she can catch a glimpse of the Champion. She is confused but also wants to act on her feelings. Dieudonné captures this transition perfectly.
Sam becomes a completely different person and spends all his time in the carcass room, talking to a dead hyena. The narrator believes that it is the hyena that is whispering dark, disturbing thoughts into his head. She doesn’t want to accept the reality that what happened has made him no longer an innocent child in the world. She catches him hurting his pet Chinchilla Helmut and becomes deeply disturbed by him. She later discovers a tape recording of screaming cats and realises that he is the one that has been killing cats. He also starts going to the shooting range with their father and develops a new relationship. Both characters become haunted and jump whenever they hear Tchaikovsky Flower Waltz crackle. Ice cream will never be the same again. It’s compelling to read as you hopelessly want brother and sister to reunite but are fearful as the rose tinted glasses have been removed.
I enjoyed reading the detail of the scenery that surrounds these characters. They live in a development called The Demo which contains 50 grey detached houses, all lined up like tombstones. The narrator lives in a house with a room full of dead animals. She is surrounded by death. It stalks her and feeds off her paranoia. The chapter where the narrator is being hunted in the woods made my senses come alive. It was eerie to read as every movement made my heart jump. I was fully immersed into this savage world of learning to fight and survive by yourself. It’s gritty and rough, it’s real life.
I give Real Life By Adeline Dieudonné a Five out of Five paw rating.
I LOVED this book. The characters, the story, the scenery, everything! There is so much to explore and learn. Dieudonné’s characters are alive, you can feel the anger, hate and jealousy oozing off the page. It is an intoxicating story, a real coming of age tale that develops the characters’ traits and personalities beautifully. Dieudonné writes with a poetic passion that is infectious to read. Highly recommended dear readers.
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy.
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