A Review: The Confidant by Helene Gremillon
I completely fell for this book. In the best way. I loved it. Be warned: the contents are not necessarily profound, the story even cliche, but the CHARACTERS, oh the beautiful characters and the train wreck that was bound to follow made this one so hard to put down. Sometimes you just need something for the entertainment, a novel that's well written, maybe even a little filthy, but takes you a thousand places you could never go. This is also a perfect title to suggest on Valentine's Day for so many reasons, but mostly for some of the seriously sensual scenes. Steamy time. I'm sure in the original French it was absolutely thrilling.
This year has been a winner in the reading department. I've completed six and have only been disappointed with one. The library is suddenly releasing all my anticipated holds. Netgalley continues to promote reads that I just have to have (look out for a review of Z: The Life of Zelda Fitzgerald in March). I'm basically foaming at the mouth for an advanced copy of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life because I hear it's amazing. If the galley gods see this, perhaps they'll spare my poor heart and grant me access. A girl can hope.
When Camille begins receiving handwritten letters in the post, she believes someone has cleverly decided to take advantage of her role as a book publisher. However, Camille quickly realizes that the author, Louis, is telling a story of a past that will change her life forever. Deep between the pages of paper weathered from Louis's own hands, Camille discovers the life of Annie, and Louis's undying love for her. Louis's dreams are dashed when a mysterious, and wealthy, young couple move into their small town, just outside of Paris. Annie is swept under the wing of Madame M. and spends less and less time with her friends and family. After a sudden decision to escape to a small town with the couple, those closest to her attempt to understand her decision. In these letters, Camille discovers the reason for her flight and secrets that Annie was forced to keep for the rest of her life.
There's not much I can say that won't spoil the novel. Sure, there are many bits that you see a mile coming, but then there are things that take you by surprise and change everything you thought you knew completely. The characters, while not completely complex, do have their own voices and tales that garner sympathy. The backdrop, Paris, is only vaguely described, but the life within each individual brings it to life. Gremillon brilliantly manages to bring an authenticity to the changing landscape in the midst of the occupation of France by Germany.
The emotional impact at the heart of the novel really makes this shine. An unrequited love, a story you've heard before, Camille and Louis and Annie make this feel so unique. My only issue was that the translation, at times, felt clumsy and ruined the pacing. However, it didn't ruin the book for me. I can say, for sure, that I'll be reading this one again to pick up the pieces that I failed to notice along the way.
Even if you don't celebrate Valentine's Day, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I mean, who doesn't like receiving gifts from themselves?! Maybe that's just me.
I had to feature the following tweet posted by WaterstonesOxfordSt earlier today: "Remember that if your partner didn't get you a book today then it's over. It's all over. They had their chance. They blew it." So funny! Happy Thursday, everyone!