Raised in the utopia of sexual liberation, Serj, Yvonne, Heloise, and Xavier have long had a persistent hatred for their parents. Back in the family home for the father's funeral after fifteen years of exile, the four children seek to make peace with their past while learning to live again. But in this theatre of debauchery, deceit, and quarrels, everyday gestures like the excesses of desire seem to be orchestrated by a director who has returned from beyond the grave to remind them that the fruit never falls far from the tree.
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Although Falaise is his fourth novel, it is the first time I have discovered Guy Verville. The subject of the book attracted me, four children raised in the utopia of sexual liberation, who are coming home after fifteen years away for their father's funeral. Everyone discovers that it is not easy to make peace with their past.
Serj, Yvonne, Heloise and Xavier had "combative parents, jouisseurs, artists and especially grotesque".
André and Diane raised these four children without knowing how to love them. They let perverse demons lurk around, lies infiltrate the four walls and truths hang "in the locked cupboards".
As a child, Xavier examined his parents through the keyhole; he saw too much of André and Diane "to admire, understand or love them. As for the others, childhood was a decoy, a bad thought.
André's will states that his assets were placed in a trust. All those who claim to be his children, and who hope to get something, will have to undergo a DNA test. And the author adds that "hatred and love form a confused string of DNA".
Hatred and love are constantly echoed in this finely crafted novel. The author sometimes seems to describe how a character learns to "homogenize his bitterness".
We often hear that tomorrow is another day, that we have to take that "sixty minutes at a time, and if possible, a shot of gin every 15 minutes!"
Guy Verville's style plays on several registers: sarcastic, philosophical, poetic, erotic. He writes that André "preferred to travel, enlightened and guided by drugs, staggering over the aromas of desire by swallowing the sinuous words of seasonal sirens".
As mentioned above, children were raised in the hippie era, in the era of peace and love. The youngest child is a homosexual who is comfortable in his own skin, always ready to come, even with his bisexual brother.
Xavier likes to tell his adventures. He explains how, instead of doing this in the bushes, he could have taken the boy to a hotel room, "making love to him by promising him that they would be happy together all their lives. But it's easier to empty your balls than to quench your heart."
The children are now between 41 and 52 years old. No one is married. Curiously, Yvonne and Héloïse meet the one they love during this painful return to the family home.
Even if the late father still seems to want to bring the survivors into line, the excesses of the heart escape his orchestration from beyond the grave.
Falaise is a 310-page novel without chapters, at most subtitles on every 2, 3, 4 or 5 pages. The moods most often prevail over the spectacular twists and turns. Guy Verville is a fine psychologist here.
The dark premise, if there is one! Following the death of their father, two brothers and two sisters were reunited with their mother, whom they had not seen for almost fifteen years. From the beginning, there was a certain mystery about the cause of this exile: the father was both fickle and violent, but it seems that the past hides even more troubled waters. A great lover, literally, of the libertine style of the 1960s, the father had created a paradise in which children found little contact with each other and where love in all directions concealed a sometimes gloomy clandestinity.
Serj, Heloise, Xavier and Yvonne found themselves in the company of their mother and sister to die an abscess that was more than time to tackle. Each one presents himself with his share of secrets and memories. Xavier who spyed on the orgies in which his parents participated to contemplate better the men's bodies that fascinated him. Yvonne, embittered by the missed opportunities and a happiness that escapes her. Heloise who seems to feel a certain nostalgia for a past that she is not sure really existed. Serj, forensic scientist, used to searching for the truth in the heart of anonymous flesh, but which nevertheless remains an almost impenetrable wall, leaving nothing to filter out about his fears, his aspirations and about whom his desire is focused. And why is the paternal office sealed? With such an introduction, one might expect a very dark tone, but the author, Guy Verville, navigates surprisingly well between often contradictory emotions to brilliantly evoke a web of complex relationships and truths, large and small. A very nice discovery!
By diving into the first sections of your latest novel, we notice work on par with the significant NRF publications. That's for sure, no doubt for me. Without knowing your literary influences, however, I perceive from the outset a style that can easily be measured against Sylvie Germain, Marie Ndiaye or even Éric Fottorino. That's for style.
For the content, that is to say, where you want to bring emotion, both for us and the characters, you succeed wonderfully in leading us towards unsuspected trajectories, as if we had everything to learn, whereas never can the human being be transparent to us. The example I'm going to give you is rather classic. Still, for my part, only Zola masters this art so well (his characters are immersed in wild capitalism while their humanity remains intact). And this art is transposed in your book with the characters of Diana and her children since we never manage to resolve their feelings towards their parents quickly; they keep their childish and selfish impulses like Anne Frank for her parents, or the way Nancy Huston treated her childhood in Lignes de faille; However, their adult condition (for the characters in your book) often brings them back to reality by leaving the reader in pleasant suspense; pleasant since when you read it, you feel something compelling: we trust you. And when this relationship of trust naturally develops between the reader and the author, the reading becomes justified and, above all, pleasant.
If I took some time before sharing my appreciation, it was to let the whole question about the treatment of dialogues mature in me, and, as such, your novel allowed me to find some answers in this regard. Dialogue in literature seems delicate to me since it only directs emotion on the surface. That's what I realize when I go through several books at random. As in real life, what comes out of our mouths is of no great importance, whereas everything happens in the emotions felt in our heads. I note that dialogue in literature is perhaps more predominant when it involves an analytical treatment between characters, as Amélie Nothomb uses it. But always, when there are many dialogues, it is very delicate to construct knowledge. As for the structure of your novel, I thought a little bit about Tracy Chevalier's The Lady with the Unicorn; however, for the latter, she treats the dialogues more sparingly and concentrates the action more in the minds of her characters, even though different characters can respond one after the other, but always from the perspective of one (for that, we only have to think of Jonathan Littell in his very famous Les Bienveillantes. But the example of Tracy Chevalier is far better). In your novel, with this construction so that each section has a title, for example, "Mother, Children," it would have been easy to choose this path where the mind of a single character would have generated the dialogue between the characters. Finally, the issue is very complex. And suppose the dialogue is so delicate in its treatment. In that case, it is because the author must first reflect upstream on the whole epistemological question of his work since it is there that he decides, as I said earlier, how he will build knowledge. In short, it's a very, very long subject that we could elaborate further together!
I congratulate you on this last baby; it's a colossal job, you can feel it, and I admire this courage to publish very sincerely.
(4 stars in 5)
Sometimes there are family secrets that should be kept hidden. But very often, it is better to die the abscess, even if it means questioning several lives. This is the premise of Falaise, the fourth novel by Montrealer Guy Verville. Gathered for the funeral of a famous distant father and fickle, his children confront their mother and repeat the reasons that led them to abandon the family nest more than a decade earlier, through very short chapters centred on one or other of the family members. On the menu were the parents' omnipresent sexuality and infidelity at the time, and the wounds that were still struggling to heal. The sexual tension of the characters, skillfully tied up by the author, never goes beyond vulgarity, despite the apparent carelessness of each and every one of them and the discomforts raised, which could in themselves be the main subject of the book. If we are witnessing yet another quest by the Quebec father, the depth of the protagonists, as well as their weaknesses, their decisions and ultimately their constant selfishness, make this "bunch of freaks", to quote one of the secondary characters, devilishly endearing.
I read this novel in a few days during my holidays (OK, I had started it a little before, so I couldn't wait any longer). Holidays at the square are an ideal time to take this very well-told and well tied story of Guy Verville, but also very disturbing.
First of all, I must admit that I am a fan of the author, having read all his titles with the greatest pleasure.
A keen observer of humanity, he skillfully identifies his characters. They are as imperfect as they are endearing, as true as they are liars, as good as they are selfish. They are neither completely white nor completely black, but resolutely grey. This makes them credible.
The title Falaise is a beautiful metaphor for the fall of a dysfunctional family, as we all know. Diane, Rose, Heloise, Serj, Xavier and Philippe each cultivate a secret garden, in addition to sharing a family secret. The whole thing comes out in the open after their father's death when it comes time to read his will. And even then, we feel that these revelations are not complete, the transparency is not total. We will never know the real feelings that some people have towards each other, especially those of children towards their parents. The unspoken is very revealing in this wonderful text, because often what we say does not have as much meaning as what we feel.
I recommend this reading without hesitation.