Wednesday 14 December 2022

Book Review: The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer

The Years The Years by Annie Ernaux
Trans. by  Alison L. Strayer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not much of a Francophile and have never really holidayed there and will admit to having never heard of this author prior to her being shortlisted for this book for the International Booker in 2019 and winning the Nobel for Literature in 2022 and my book club chose it for its monthly read. Also I am not a fan of memoir or creative non-fiction. The Booker folk must have thought there was enough fiction in this to qualify but perhaps not enough to win. It has a very strange "we" voice with occasional lapses and even when it enters the third person it it referring to the girl , then young woman, in various photographs. This creates a weird sense of collective and individual in which to look back at their/her life experience from 1941 to the 21st century through a very nostalgic lens voiced as lists of events, things encountered . These lists of brand names, movies, music, politicians, historical events, social upheavals etc one level provoke the reader to think of the equivalents in their own lives, but after a while begin to feel like a bad history lesson. I found this wallowing in nostalgia, with little in the way of storyline or plot to be overwhelming. Combine this with the remoteness of the main character which the voice and style of writing creates I was just not engaged by the book. I persevered for half of it then really could not go on. It may well appeal to readers of memoirs and readers more in tune with all things French. Whereas brand names can usually be transmuted into those from ones one country many non-French readers may feel at a loss to relate to with regard to French Politics of the De Gaulle era, the Algerian war. I'm left with the feeling that the audience who will love this book is quite specific and does not include me .

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