cover image Hunting Party

Hunting Party

Agnès Desarthe, trans. from the French by Christiana Hills. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $17 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-944700-71-3

In this spirited novel, a well-meaning wife convinces her sensitive husband, Tristan, to embark on a hunting trip with a few overzealous locals from their new hometown in the French countryside. Opening with a marvelously clever passage told from the point of a view of a rabbit, the early chapters establish Tristan’s inability to connect with his rugged fellow hunters, especially the outspoken and aggressive Dumestre. After the rabbit from the first chapter is grazed by a bullet, Tristan, who doesn’t want the rabbit to be killed, hides it in his game bag and carries it around. The excursion becomes complicated first by Dumestre seriously injuring himself by falling into a sinkhole, and later by a massive storm that arrives as Dumestre and Tristan wait for the other hunters to come back to the spot with help, pushing the two dissimilar men to similarly intense emotional reckonings. Dumestre intercuts the dramatic storm sequences with meditative flashbacks to Tristan’s past, and while some of these interludes detract from the momentum and thematic coherence of the novel, the writing is dynamic regardless of stakes or subject matter. Though the scope of the novel expands a tad too wide by the end, Desarthe (Chez Moi) is excellent when she narrows her sights on the psychology of her individual characters, whether they’re human or animal. (July)