Marion Brunet- Summer of Reckoning #BlogTour

A psychological thriller set in the Luberon, a French region that evokes holidays in magnificent pool-adorned villas. For those who live there year-round, it often means stifling poverty and boredom. Sixteen-year-old Céline and her sister Jo, fifteen, dream of escaping to somewhere far from their daily routine, far from their surly, alcoholic father and uncaring mother, both struggling to make ends meet. That summer Celine falls pregnant, devastating news that reopens deep family wounds. Those of the mother Severine whose adolescence was destroyed by her early pregnancy and subsequent marriage with Manuel. Those of the father Manuel, grandson of Spanish immigrants, who takes refuge in alcoholism to escape the open disdain of his in-laws. Faced with Celine’s refusal to name the father of her child, Manuel needs a guilty party and Saïd, a friend of the girls from an Arab family, fits Manuel’s bigoted racial stereotype. In the suffocating heat of summer he embarks on a drunken mission of revenge…

Now onto a slice of French psychological crime from author Marion Brunet, translated by Katherine Gregor set amidst the machinations of a very disturbed family. Brunet is probably better known for her prize winning YA novels, so this is her first adult novel and the first translated into English…

In no way, shape or form could this be described as a comfortable read if you are seeking some respite from the current global events, so prepare yourself for a story of unrelenting misery, peopled by a cast of unrelentingly miserable characters. Without exception, well maybe Celine as she is quite shallow and charmingly dense, this is a family fuelled by anger, suspicion and violence, where everyone is caught up in a self destructive cycle of familial despair. Their torturous interactions and stilted communication is an incredibly powerful central theme of the book, and apart from the daughters, Celine and Jo who have some semblance of a sisterly bond, despite their seemingly different characters, there’s not a whole lot of love and understanding permeating this family. Their father resents his father, his Spanish heritage and Said, the girls’ Arabic friend with violent consequences.Their mother seems to resent pretty much everyone too, including her husband and daughters, in this claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere of home.  Little wonder that both teenage girls long for escape and adventure in their differing ways, but cruelly seem to find the opposite is true…

I did rather like the character of Jo, the younger daughter, who is sharp and quick witted, and although as physically attractive as her fatuous older sister. uses her intelligence and slightly teasing nature to expand her life out beyond the simmering pot of resentment she calls home, “Jo drinks the poison of a landscape that’s too familiar. Her nonchalance is just a façade; inside, there’s a clash between love and revulsion for these paths travelled thousands of times…Jo is looking for a way out”  She is heartily bored by her surroundings (although she does seem to have more of a connection to nature), her circle of schoolfriends, the company of her sister, and her irritating parents, and anticipates that as her sister’s due time approaches and she still refuses to name the father, things will get a whole more uncomfortable. As clever as she is though, she is still undone at times by her naivety and impetuosity, and at the close of the book, despite interludes of ‘freedom’ we all have call to question how far she has escaped at all from the domestic familiarity she seem to so resent.

Despite the relative slimness of the novel, there are some quite weighty themes addressed in this book, from internal and external racism, jealousy, unfaithfulness, sexuality, murder and domestic violence. As is so typical of French crime fiction, there is a maelstrom of heated emotion in some characters perfectly balanced with the brooding surliness of others, all within the familiar trope of loaded miscommunications, and petty jealousies escalating into more destructive events. I think if I had been reading this in happier times I would have probably being enveloped in this blanket of misery a bit more as I quite like a bit of angst and sadness in my crime reading, but overall it was a solid read with some interesting observations on family cohesion, loyalty and jealousy. Recommended.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

(With thanks to Bitter Lemon Press for the ARC)

Catch up with the blog tour, organised by Anne Cater at these excellent sites:

 

One thought on “Marion Brunet- Summer of Reckoning #BlogTour

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.