Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Very Long Engagement

Bonjour Fleur!

I haven't done much in the last few months with my Read It Or Remove Program. Oh well. Let's face it I have bigger regrets than that so let's move on, OK?

Yesterday I needed a book to take with me to a swim meet. It had to be something easy to pull in and out of my bag (meaning not chubby) and most importantly grab my attention. I love going to the nieces and nephews activities and most of the time they are a couple hours of my day and that's that. The meets are different. They can last anywhere from 4 hours to all day. Having a book with me is a necessity. I didn't have a book already started and having to select a one with no chance of a do-over makes me a little nervous.

My choices were narrowed down to a few dozen by deciding to skip the waiting new releases and reader's copies. A Very Long Engagement popped out at me and looked as though it would fit the bill. I've had it here waiting to be read for at least ten years. I remember buying it. Years ago when the edition I have was going out of print to make room for the movie tie in edition we got some of that first edition in the store as remainders and I scooped one up.

When young, wheelchair bound Mathilde learns that the fiance, Jean, she has been mourning for five years may not have been killed in the trenches of World War I, she sets out to find him. Mathilde's obsession leads her to the court marshall for self-mutilation of Jean and five other soldiers. Undaunted and aided by a private detective, Mathilde is convinced that not only will she be able to find Jean alive but that he and his fellow soldiers are innocent. Discrepancies slowly pile up around deliberately misleading clues and despite Mathilde's fierce belief in Jean the Official Version seems incontrovertible.

Mathilde's quest is not the usual mystery novel stew of over the top violence, bad guys and damsels in distress. Mathilde, the mystery and the setting of a France still recoving from years as a battleground makes a haunting trifecta. The author, S├ębastien Japrisot, has crafted a gorgeously taunt, psychologically suspenseful love story. The writing is precise, spare and packs a huge punch. You are anxious as Mathilde is as the evidence takes her on a one step forward and two steps back search. A Very Long Engagement is the best Alfred Hitchcock movie you will ever read.


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