January wrap-up (part 1)
Conquistadors (2.5★/5), by Éric Vuillard: It was fine. The writing was nice, but the story wasn't particularly gripping and it didn't bring any original takes to a historical moment that is fairly well-documented and no longer considered rich for historical mining. Think you can give this a skip.
Les Bourgeois (1.6★/5), by Alice Ferney: Ended up being a whole lot of nothing - was basically just a list of a really big family's birthdays and marriages and how they died, all told through the lens of 'the 1920s-1950s were an absolute idyll and the modern world sucks because Catholics are no longer in charge of making sure families have 10 babies and the pill was the downfall of civilisation'. Somehow Alice Ferney managed to make the story of a family through both world wars, Algerian independence, and the 1960s excessively dull. And, my god, the characters - they were all identical, bigoted, conservative, dullards with absolutely no discerning traits. If you're going to have such a boring cast of characters and no plot to speak of, you should at least do some kind of historical or social or political critique of the events you are situating your story in, instead of just blindly accepting the version of history you've been told by your royalist, conservative, anti-laicïté granddad, Alice. Because, actually, the 1950s weren't a brilliant time that society should strive to go back to. Such a disappointing read.
Le serpent majuscule (4★/5), by Pierre Lemaitre: There's a great idea here, and some truly excellent satire writing, but I think it could've used some more through revisions. Reviewed here.
Les Oubliés du dimanche (5★/5), by Valérie Perrin: A definite contender for best of 2022. An almost perfect novel that made me sob. Reviewed in full here.
Des bleus à l'âme (3★/5), by Françoise Sagan: A bit too experimental for my taste, but lovely writing as ever.
La Femme fardée (3.4★/5), by Françoise Sagan: Very psychological and very Proustian in its tortuousness. I think this book was a smidgen too long and that rather threw off the pacing; but I liked the locked-room aspect of it. Also I'd be interested to see how much of this James Cameron lifted for Titanic, since the central love triangle in that movie seems to be lifted straight from the central love triangle in this book. Very lovely introspective writing, as ever with Sagan.
Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language (3.6★/5), by Amanda Montell: An interesting read if a bit repetitive by the end; also I wasn't sure about how she organised the book. Still an informative read, and I giggled in more than one part.
Le Cœur cousu (3.5★/5), by Carole Martinez: A historical fiction with so much magical surrealism that it doesn't feel anchored in any real time or place beyond a vague 'Andalusia'. Does some interesting playing with narrative structure, as well.
Un crime sans importance (4.7★/5), by Irène Frain: Walks a very thin line between being a true crime book and an autobiographical novel about the way a family reacts to a murder of one of their own. I didn't appreciate the vagueness of how she treats her sister's mental illness, as that makes the entire back half of the book read like a morass of doubt and deliberate misleading of the reader, but all told I liked how introspective and raw and loose the book felt.
Petits arrangements avec nos cœurs (2.9★/5), by Camille de Peretti: The ending on this one really saves it from being a work of pure mediocrity, as it throws a wrench into what was otherwise an autobiographical novel consisting entirely of the self-satisfied whingeing of a horrible woman who is never satisfied, always thinks it's someone else's fault, and deliberately self-sabotages in ways I found deeply, deeply irritating. If the ending hadn't been so unexpectedly tragic, I would have told this woman to go to therapy instead of subjecting the world to her nonsense. Maybe I am saying that, actually.