Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné, translated from the French by Roland Glasser. Real Life was published in paperback on 13th February 2020. Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate and to World Editions for my proof copy. You can find out what I thought about Real Life below.
About the Book
At home there are four rooms: one for her, one for her brother, one for her parents … and one for the carcasses. The father is a big game hunter, a powerful predator; the mother is submissive to her violent husband’s demands. The young narrator spends the days with her brother, Sam, playing in the shells of cars dumped for scrap and listening out for the chimes of the ice-cream truck, until a brutal accident shatters their world.
The uncompromising pen of Adeline Dieudonné wields flashes of brilliance as she brings her characters to life in a world that is both dark and sensual. This breathtaking debut is a sharp and funny coming-of-age tale in which reality and illusion collide.
Format: Paperback (320 pages) Publisher: World Editions
Publication date: 13 February 2020 Genre: Literary fiction, literature in translation
Find Real Life on Goodreads
At one point in the book, the unnamed narrator attempts to reassure her younger brother, Sam, scared by tales of what lurks in the woods beyond their house, by saying “Stories exist to contain everything that frightens us. That way we can be sure those things won’t happen in real life.”
If only that were so. In fact, the real life she and Sam experience is the stuff of nightmares. A violent, tyrannical father who gets his kicks from killing animals and displaying them as trophies in his carcass room (described as ‘a Noah’s Ark of the dead’). A mother who has been so cowed into passivity by their father’s physical and psychological abuse that her daughter dismissively compares her to an amoeba. The scenes of the family’s tense meal times powerfully communicate the sense that violence can erupt at any moment. “Life was a big soup in a mixer where you had to try and avoid being shredded by the blades.”
When the children witness a dreadful freak accident, the trauma causes our narrator to believe that an evil presence has taken up residence within her brother. Feeling a responsibility to save him, she comes up with a plan that involves channelling her obvious intelligence and hunger for learning into the study of physics.
Our narrator also becomes convinced her life is not the one she was intended to lead, that she is in the “flawed offshoot” of a life that should have taken a different direction, and that still can. This conviction, combined with a growing awareness of her own sexuality, leads her into risky behaviour that will have dramatic consequences.
Described as ‘A Lord of the Flies for the #MeToo generation’, I won’t say Real Life makes comfortable reading but it contains some striking imagery and is a powerful, unflinching depiction of a young girl’s attempt to thrive despite her dysfunctional family. I found her determination to save her brother a flash of light in an otherwise dark story.
In three words: Dark, intense, compelling
Try something similar: Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård
About the Author
Adeline Dieudonné was born in 1982 and lives in Brussels. A playwright and short-story writer, her first novella, Amarula, was awarded the Grand Prix of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Two further booklets were published by Editions Lamiroy in 2017: Seule dans le noir and Bonobo Moussaka.
Real Life was recently awarded the prestigious Prix du Roman FNAC, the Prix Rossel, the Prix Renaudot des Lycéens, and the Prix Filigrane, a French prize for a work of high literary quality with wide appeal. Dieudonné also performs as a stand-up comedian.
About the Translator
Roland Glasser is an award-winning translator of French literature, based in London.