Blog Tour/Extract: Stories We Tell Ourselves by Sarah Françoise

I’m delighted to be co-hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Stories We Tell Ourselves by Sarah Françoise, alongside the lovely people at the ChickLit Club.  Described as being ‘written with a rare precision and insight’, Stories We Tell Ourselves explores ‘the thorniness of familial love and its capacity to endure with warmth, wit and disarming honesty.’

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Stories We Tell OurselvesAbout the Book

Frank and Joan’s marriage is in trouble. Having spent three decades failing to understand each other in their unfinished house in the French alps, Joan’s frustrations with her inattentive husband have reached breaking point. Frank, retreating ever further into his obscure hobbies, is distracted by an epistolary affair with his long-lost German girlfriend. Things are getting tense. But it’s Christmas, and the couple are preparing to welcome home their three far-flung children.

The children, though, are faring little better in love themselves. Maya, a gender expert mother-of-two, is considering leaving her family and running off with a woman; Wim is considering leaving his girlfriend; and Lois, who spends her time turning war documentaries into love poems, is facing a change of heart.

Format: ebook, hardcover (240 pp.) Publisher: Apollo, an imprint of Head of Zeus Published: 5th April 2018                    Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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Extract from Stories We Tell Ourselves by Sarah Françoise

In September 2015, Frank started frequenting an inexpensive restaurant behind the train station called Chez Josée. The restaurant had a white formica bar, a Pacman pinball machine out front, and a small, windowless dining room in the back. It also had Wi-Fi and beef heart on the menu. The beef heart was served braised, with a garnish of green beans or lamb’s lettuce.

Frank started frequenting the restaurant not because of the heart, but because of the Wi-Fi, and because they tolerated the dog. The heart came later.

Every Wednesday, he sat at the back of the restaurant and opened his laptop to work on one of two projects: 1) the ‘bor’ project, or 2) the Caspar David Friedrich project.

The ‘bor’ project was an exhaustive compilation of French place names derived from the aforementioned pre-Indo-European root. Its purpose was to settle once and for all the toponymic debate surrounding the precise meaning of the syllable ‘bor’, itself a rare derivation of the root ‘bar’. Many etymologists espoused the theory that the inclusion of ‘bor’ in a place name suggested a protruding geographical formation. There was a certain degree of discord even within this group, and a broad spectrum of interpretation of the word ‘protruding’, which included everything from escarpments to huts, copses to knolls, via good old-fashioned hills. A smaller number of fantasists on the fringes of the field pretended that ‘bor’ meant apiary, citadel, etc. – opinions that were refuted in unison by the other camps.

It seemed that ‘bor’ was all things to all people – the kind of generous imprecision that kept Frank awake at night. And so Frank took it upon himself to resolve the issue once and for all, through exhaustive, map-based research of the Hexagon.

To do this, he combed through the country inch by inch, circling ‘bor’ hamlets, villages, hills and plateaux on blue French ordnance survey maps. He travelled an average five miles per hour, walking his index finger and tiring his eyes over the blue-green 1:25,000-ratio atlas. Sometimes his eyelid would start to twitch, and Joan was called to squirt artificial tears into Frank’s feverish eyes. He organised the place names he stumbled upon in a sophisticated maze of Excel spreadsheets, and highlighted some of his breakthroughs in online cartography forums under the alias Borax.

The Caspar David Friedrich project was a dissertation on the topography of Romanticism that was now twenty years in the making. Forty, if you counted the research. Sixty, if you took into account the conditioning of Frank’s childhood. About a year ago, Frank had started publishing instalments of his thesis on a blog, which was followed by a handful of scholars, and almost as many webcam models in the US and Eastern Europe.

Frank saw these projects as his service to humanity – his humble contribution to the keeping of mankind’s history. After all, what was geography if not history in relief? Mountains pushed up out of the earth’s crust, and then eroded. Their names, too, erupted from language, over time picking up letters and syllables which might later be shed.  As for his interest in German Romanticism, it too was born of a seismic vibration.

Sarah FrancoiseAbout the Author

Sarah Françoise is a French-British writer and translator currently living in Brooklyn, NYC. Her writing has appeared in Joyland, Bone Bouquet, Hobart and Poor Claudia.

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Stories We Tell Ourselves blog tour