Jean Giono, trans. from the French by Paul Eprile. New York Review Books, $14 ISBN 978-1-59017-918-5
In this 1929 classic, an elegiac ode to Provence, Giono tells a simple tale of peasants living in a valley. At the outset we are introduced to 12 characters living in four houses at the foot of a hill. In one house is Gondran, Marguerite, and her father, Janet. In another is Cesar Maurras, his mother, and their young welfare worker. Besides the inhabitants of the other two houses, the only other resident of the valley is Gagou, a strange outsider. Giono describes every element of the surrounding French landscape in luscious detail, but it is the hill that physically and spiritually dominates the land. Giono delights in watching his characters interact and go about their business of drinking wine, making up stories, and contemplating normal human unhappiness. In terms of traditional plot, very little happens. In an effort to rid the valley of bad fortune, they go hunting for a rogue black cat. Soon thereafter, disaster strikes when the natural spring that supplies them with water runs dry and a fire breaks out. The villagers struggle to find water and control the land, because they care so deeply about “this bit of earth that’s ours, these houses where we’ve all been through so much.” The ultimate gift of Giono’s short novel is that it allows the reader to travel back to a distant, almost primitive time in rural France. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-59017-919-2
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