Voice Over

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“They have known each other for a long time. She has never quite been able to recall the moment when they met, the place, the precise day, whether she shook his hand or they kissed on the cheek. Nor has she ever thought to ask him. She does have a first memory, though. As she was climbing into her coat in the narrow hallway of an unkempt apartment, she had caught his look of distress. The woman he had flirted with all evening was refusing to leave with him. He was trying to persuade her with an insistent barrage of words, which fell to pieces in the face of the majestic creature. She thought the idea of being suddenly deprived on the object of his affections must have been more than he could bear just then. And seeing him this way, in love, had moved her. She had slipped between the two of them and said, I’m off. But he had not replied.”

Sigh.

One of the more difficult books I read this month. I was torn between feeling sorry for and being just so irritated by the nameless main character.

Somehow I ended up reading yet another story about a lonely love stuck woman. In love, foolishly oh foolishly so, with another woman’s man.

And she feels it so.

As I suppose does anyone in an unrequited kind of love. It hurts so much yet she cannot let him go.

There is a wistful kind of romance to this story. She is that voice you hear announcing the trains at the Gare du Nord. She has hardly any friends. And seems to be a magnet for weird men. She pretends to be a prostitute, she shoplifts, she is locked into the apartment of a man she had met in a cafe. And there is that hint of a childhood trauma, which is only detailed at the end. She is obviously desperate for attention. Yet she does get people’s attention everyday when she makes her announcements. But hers is a disembodied voice. One that will never be recognized. She makes all these announcements for people departing and arriving, yet she has never left France. It is a rather claustrophobic world that she lives in. I can hardly get a breath in.

So I pity her and yet I cannot stand her. She makes all these infuriating decisions. And I keep wondering, what? What is she doing? Why is she so naive? So foolish? And so I struggle to make my way through this book. I start and stop reading it, because I want also to read more of Curiol’s Parisian world and of her way of noticing the everyday things. And who doesn’t love Paris – or at least the thought of it. Although in the nameless woman’s Paris, there seems to be a predator lurking around every corner (!).

“The Jardin du Luxembourg and its hodge-podge of tourists. Rings of chairs arranged as if for the conversations of invisible characters. It’s up to anyone out for a walk to imagine, according to the layout of these metals remains, what went on here before his arrival.”

So while I didn’t quite enjoy reading it. No that doesn’t sound right. Maybe it’s more like that it was such a challenge reading Voice Over that I am surprised, glad that I managed to finish it.
It was a relief when Voice Over finally came to an end, but voice is vibrant, authentic, exacting. Paul Auster says it so much better in the foreword:

“Curiol’s eye for detail is so sharp, so exact in its renderings of the world beyond her character’s skin, that even as the narrative concentrates on the actions of a single individual, we are simultaneously given a crystal-clear picture of French society at large – the new France, the France of the early twenty-first century.”

Title: Voice Over
By: Celine Curiol
Translated from French by Sam Richard
Published in 2008

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6 thoughts on “Voice Over

  1. “I pity her and yet I cannot stand her. ”
    Yes, I felt exactly the same way! I was very irritated by this book and I only finished it because it was a book club choice. I did appreciate that it was well written, but it wasn’t to my taste at all. I was very pleased to finish it too.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Audra! It was such a frustrating read that I was so glad it was over! At the same time, it had such lovely moments…. so I am still torn…

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