cover image SOMEONE I LOVED


Anna Gavalda, , trans. from the French by Catherine Evans. . Riverhead, $14 (336pp) ISBN 978-1-59448-041-6

Gavalda's slim second novel, published here in back-to-back English and French versions, tells a spare, dialogue-based tale of a young, abandoned wife. Chloé, mother of two, is in shock after her husband, Adrien, leaves her for another woman. In an improbable move, her laconic father-in-law, Pierre, rescues her, driving Chloé and her daughters to his country house, where they spend a few surprisingly therapeutic days together. While in the country, Pierre gives Chloé an extended account of an extramarital affair of his own. His dalliance was based on real love, and this, ironically, comforts Chloé. Gavalda's prose style is refreshingly elliptical, though often the reader longs for more than a scrap of exposition. At the book's best moments, mundane details mingle with Chloé's despair to create an even deeper sadness: while cooking dinner with Pierre, Chloé reflects, "I cried, thinking occasionally about how the spaghetti was going to be inedible if I didn't add some oil." But Gavalda's prose can also lurch clumsily between triteness and sarcasm: "Go to the ends of the earth, clamber over thickets, hedges, ditches, get a stuffy nose, cross old Marcel's courtyard, and watch Teletoons while eating strawberry-flavored marshmallows. Sometimes, life is wonderful...." Such awkward pathos weighs down Gavalda's airy tale. (Apr. 5)