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New Novel by Carole Martinez

book cover
This time of year in France, when kids go back to school, is also the rentrée littéraire, when many books are published in hopes of getting notice in one of the literary competitions. The new novel by French writer Carole Martinez, La terre qui penche, got a positive reaction from François Busnel (Carole Martinez donne vie à une Antigone médiévale, September 24) in L'Express (my translation):
We had left Carole Martinez in the 12th century [in her last novel, Du domaine des Murmures], in the fascinating backdrop of the Domaine des Murmures: then we were following the striking history of Esclarmonde, a young girl, victim of rape, who made the choice to wall herself up alive, raising the child of her suffering alone and passing for a saint in the eyes of the people. In her new book, we have the narrative of the short life of Blanche, who arrives at the Domaine des Murmures two hundred years later, and whose fate is also intriguing.

Blanche is 11 years old. Within a year, she will be dead. We know all this within the first few lines. Her story is recounted by two voices: "the old soul" and "the little girl." The old soul has haunted the place for more than six hundred years. Does she remember everything? Or does she indeed do what all of us do when we dig around in our memories -- does she make things up? In any case, her version of events differs sometimes from that of the little girl, Blanche, who in the present tells what she experiences. This alternation gives this labyrinthine novel all of its force.
By the way, Martinez writes books intended for teenage readers, and Du domaine des Murmures won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, judged by a group of book-minded high school students, in 2011. Her first book, Le Cœur cousu, was recently translated into English as The Threads of the Heart (linked at right).

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