FRENCH LEAVE by Anna Galvada


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A family reunion of sorts, in which four siblings re-gather, reminisce and then once again split apart.

We first meet the narrator, Garance, when she’s on the way to a family wedding, one she doesn’t particularly care to attend, with her brother Simon and his insufferable wife Carine. Simon is calm and quietly dignified and doesn’t seem to deserve his wife’s quirkiness—her fear of germs, for example, or her refusal to wear a seatbelt because it gives her claustrophobia. (We later find out from Simon that Carine is quite different—and much more sympathetic—when Simon’s siblings aren’t around; that she’s in fact jealous of the closeness Simon shares with his sisters.) On the way to the wedding—and much to Carine’s annoyance—they stop to pick up older sister Lola, an artist whose marriage has fallen apart. Just before the wedding, Garance, Simon and Lola spontaneously take off to visit their younger brother Vincent at “his” chateau—not a family estate but rather the place where he lives as a caretaker and visitors’ guide. They arrive just in time to find Vincent making up stories about the chateau’s supposedly haunted past, fantasies he crafts out of a vivid imagination that are eaten up by the visiting “hicks.” For one languorous and nostalgic day, the siblings talk, swim, listen to music and reminisce about their past. It’s clear they miss the closeness they once had, and even semi-cynical Garance recognizes the importance of this “borrowed time, an interlude, a moment of grace” that the four of them briefly share.

A slight novel with great—and eventually moving—insights into the dynamics of family life.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60945-005-2
Page count: 120pp
Publisher: Europa Editions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2011


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