Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reading Your Life Away

I'm currently on vacation in the sunny nether regions of our nation's most southern peninsula and figured it was a good time to catch up on sharing some wonderful books that I've recently read. Much like musicians listen to albums searching for something quite different than us non-musician listeners, writers read books that inspire them in their craft. Recently my book reviews have focused mainly on Middle Grade fiction, which I've been reading a lot of, however not exclusively by any means. Today I thought I'd share two fantastic books in another genre that has always intrigued me and of which I've written several books of my own...the great coming of age novel. Of course, also much like my own books, I'm drawn to the bleak version of these stories and these books are no different. But if you can handle a nice dose of sadness, then I promise you won't be disappointed with either of these gems.

Mouchette by Georges Bernanos

This is one of those novels that doesn't overpower the reader with its sadness, but rather works slowly to overwhelm them in a such a subtle way that the true impact falls upon you only after you've turned the last page. Mouchette is the story of a young girl, who at fourteen, is lost somewhere between the world of childish confusion and grown-up intuition. Told in such beautiful and easy prose, the harshness of the story is elevated into something pleasurable, almost hiding the painful reality of Mouchette's plight.
"Of course, thoughts never passed through Mouchette's mind in such a logical way. She was vague and jumped quickly from one thing to another. If the very poor could associate the various images of their poverty they would be overwhelmed by it, but their wretchedness seems to them to consist simply of an endless succession of miseries, a series of unfortunate changes. They are like blind men who with trembling fingers count out the coins whose value they cannot calculate."
The emotion of the book comes not from the brutal events that befall Mouchette but from the fact that she barely cares. She has resigned herself to being the 'little savage' that her teacher and townspeople see. She is aware of her ability to suffer through life, but to what end? To become like the adults around her with only new and different pains to come? In much the same way as Kate Chopin's Awakening, the reader accepts Mouchette's unwillingness to be bound to that sort of life and curses a world that allows such a decision to become the only appropriate one.
Another amazing novel in the NYRB (New York Review Book) series of reissues of incredible novels that deserve to live on.

Broken by Daniel Clay

Simply put, this is an unforgettable novel which at once highlights many of the unforgivable flaws in our modern society as well as the very things that keep us going. There is such brutal force to the characters that the consequences of every little action can't help but ripple throughout the novel and take on a momentum of their own. Told in gripping, lyrical prose, I found this book impossible to put down and read it in two sittings. On one hand, this bleak novel, illustrates the ways society corrupts innocence. On the other, it celebrates the potential that very innocence has to become our salvation.
An absolutely brilliant book.


  1. Thanks for those suggestions. My favourite coming of age fim is probably Leon; Natalie is so assured and good story.

  2. I still haven't seen The Professional, though it's currently #3 on my Netflix list, so soon.

    Mouchette was made into a movie in 1967 by Robert Bresson, definitely worth watching, though the book is less disturbing than the film.