This novel became a best seller in France after it won the “Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman” for it’s author. The novel deals with that most difficult of subjects, the loss of a beloved child and the impact on his family especially, his father. As in Alice Sebald’s “The Lovely Bones” the story is narrated by the dead child. In this case the child is a twenty one year old student, the only child of devoted, artistic parents. Though the author lost a child tragically young, he insists that this novel is not a straight recounting of the aftermath of this event, but rather “a blurring of memoir and fiction”. The novel is stark in it’s honest depiction of overwhelming grief and it will resonate with any reader who has suffered the loss of someone dear.
The most harrowing section, for me, was the whole process of dealing with the undertaker and the funeral service itself. In this section of the novel, Rostain conveys the crushing, physical nature of the loss on the young boy’s parents. There is something magnificent in their surrender to grief, which I would find hard to imagine happening in an Irish context. The novel deals authentically with the many, many regrets and feelings of guilt in the aftermath of the loss.
Rostain chronicles the stages of “recovery”, but does not shirk from how slow and torturous this progress can be. I really recommend this book, to all who have suffered a great loss, you will find in it the universal experience of grief, that we can indeed bear the unbearable, that, as the author says ”You can live with it”.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.