cover image The Balcony

The Balcony

Jane Delury. Little, Brown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-55466-4

Delury’s melancholy debut takes place between 1890 and 2009 and revolves around a manor house and servant’s cottage in Benneville, a fictional French village. An American au pair takes care of young Élodie as Olga, the girl’s smothering mother and a concentration camp survivor, packs up the family to move to the United States; only later does the au pair learn of the child’s leukemia. During WWII, after Olga had been sent to the camp, a woman looted the manor house to feed her daughter, Charlotte, more than bread and butter. Years later, Charlotte’s husband suffers from cancer treatments and can keep down nothing but toast and tea. Another elderly woman’s husband has a debilitating stroke that transforms him into an unrecognizable version of himself. Careful readers will note the connective tissue between Olga and Charlotte, but occasionally the author struggles in creating a link. The prose is tight and each stories are told well; this is a satisfying examination of the various and irrevocable ways lives intersect. Agent: Samantha Shea, Georges Borchardt, Inc. (Mar.)