What I genuinely love about book groups is that you end up reading fiction that you would possibly not normally read or even have ever heard of. One such book for me would be this month’s book group choice of Armen’s which was ‘Voice Over’ by Celine Curiol. I hadn’t heard of it or the author before, but then this is her debut novel and it has only recently be translated from French. Having now read it I am so unimpressed that I was not able to sit with the group last night and chat about it (well apart from the fact I am in Israel as you read this) because I would so love to hear other peoples opinions on this book and have a really good discussion about it because its one of those books you could discuss for quite some time.
Voice Over is told by a nameless female narrator, who also happens to be one of the most complex interesting and infuriating characters I have read in a very, very long time. She (its difficult to review a book where two of the main characters are nameless) works at the Gare Du Nord in Paris as the woman who announces the arrivals and departures of the trains. She is also an observer watching people as they go about their daily lives. She is also in love with a man, only the object of her affection is in love with another Ange. One night at a party the nameless pair kiss and from then on what was her love for this man becomes something along the lines of obsession.
However the man in question won’t be with her (though this slightly changes as the story progresses – will say no more), doesn’t call her very often and stays with Ange our narrator ends up in a depressive dangerous state, announcing she is ‘a prostitute’ at one of Ange’s parties, and then getting herself involved in some dangerous and dark situations because it seems she cant say no. A character that seems to draw drama to her and yet all at once a character who doesn’t value herself and so lets situations lead her rather than leading her own life.
Paris and its people are also big parts of the book. As I mentioned the main character is an observer and so you watch Parisian life, though admittedly through a slightly unpredictable and untrustworthy narrators eyes, and it bring up interesting subjects like the racial issues in Paris, the issues of jobs and the cost of life out there. However if you judged Paris on this book you would also think every man is a sex maniac as she appears to be propositioned at every turn endlessly just in the space of the few months we are in her life.
Sex is also high on the agenda and looks at people’s sexual habits and other peoples reactions to sex, it’s a very interesting look at humans and I personally like books like that, so if you do it will be the book for you. Though be forewarned there were moments on occasion where it made me want to throw it down in anger/frustration. How could the narrator be so naïve, I am not sure she really was, or stupid or feel so worthless to be in the positions she was? I found it ironic, and maybe this was the point, that a woman who did the voice over’s for the people in a station seemed very unable to find a voice herself. Finding a voice is not something the author Celine Curiol needs to worry about, her writing is taught, provocative, emotional, evocative and thought provoking all in a debut. I look forward to more of her works.
All these things made it such a great book to discuss, so as I said I am slightly miffed I haven’t been able to. Hopefully though some of you will have read it and will be able to let me know your thoughts! I would also love to know of any other great French fiction out there that I might have missed out on? What book group books have you read that you wouldn’t normally have done?