cover image A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray

A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray

Dominique Barbéris, trans. from the French by John Cullen. Other Press, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-1-63542-045-6

A woman visits her dissatisfied sister in the eponymous Paris neighborhood, leading to a series of shared revelations in Barbéris’s provocative if lukewarm English-language debut. Both the unnamed narrator and her sister, Claire Marie, are married and claim to be happy, yet something troubles each of them. Together, they recall their dreamy and strange youth—“No one’s childhood is really normal, I suppose,” the narrator reflects—spent together pouring over their love of the mysterious Rochester in Jane Eyre and avoiding the criticisms of their mother. Later, they share secrets with one another, leading Claire Marie to divulge a strange yet intense encounter with Marc Hermann, a Hungarian businessman whose behavior, origins, and intentions become more muddled the longer she knows him and as they begin an affair. An examination of chance and fate plays out through Claire Marie’s ominous affair, and as her sister listens she can’t help but see herself and her own staid life through the lens of Claire Marie’s attempt to break free. A study of desire and contentment, time and expectation, this slim novel raises alluring questions about paths not taken, but the stories the sisters tell one another don’t add up to much. Though it doesn’t have much staying power, fans of Patrick Modiano will appreciate this. (Apr.)