Take This Man, by Alice Zeniter. Published 2010 by Europa Editions.
I think Europa ought to take a handful of its titles- just a handful-
and try pitching them to a Young-Adult or New-Adult audience because I
bet some titles would work well for that demographic, and they may never get
to those readers because they are shelved and marketed as adult
literary fiction. Since the distinction is often one of marketing
and not merit, and since YA is used to distinguish many fine novels by
audience, books often miss appreciative readers because of where they
are shelved. Recently Europa readjusted its strategies with respect to its
mysteries, grouping them into a World Noir line, and I wonder if it
would be worth their while doing something similar with a select group
of titles for teen and twentysomething readers.
And yes I think Take This Man
would be an excellent candidate for just such a move. Set in modern day
France, it tells the story of a couple, if you can call them that,
Alice and Mad, French twentysomethings about to get married. They have
been best friends since forever- they've always known each other and
they love each other dearly- as friends. But Mad is from Mali and not a
French citizen, and he is about to be deported, at least for years and
possibly for the forseeable future. In a last-ditch effort to stay in
France and get on the path to legal residency or citizenship (I am
unclear on this point) Mad asks Alice to marry him. Alice loves him and
considers herself a "child of socialism," a Mitterand-era-raised liberal
and biracial child of a Caucasian French mother and Algerian father.
She understands racism, despises the conservative trends in French
political and social culture and jumps at the opportunity to do
Alice's voice is what makes this
book so distinctive. Author Zeniter writes Alice as energetic, vibrant
and full of life; her sentences run on, she goes back and forth in time
with anecdotes, relates all kinds of details and stories. Sometimes she
seems very immature; she refers to her parents as "Mommydaddy" and most
of her time seems occupied with social life. The move to marry Mad can
come across as ill-considered and impulsive, the act of a child. But she
also expresses a lot of angst, concern and real trepidation over the
consequences of the decision for her and her friend even if she spends a
lot of time congratulating herself too. She comes back time and again
to the panic over losing Mad, his anxiety over having to leave France,
and how this is something she has to do, like she's trying hard to
convince herself and the world this is the right decision.
enjoyed the book because I liked Alice and cared about what happened to
her. The style of writing with its run-ons and associations and endless
anecdotes about parties and friends and teenage life was not really my
cup of tea but I liked the social message and politics and the guts it
takes to really put yourself on the line for what you believe in. It has
a certain lightness about it if you will even given the serious subject
matter and one disturbing incident of racial harrassment suffered by
Alice and her parents when Alice was little. It's a neat look at modern
French life and the energy and verve of the writing is more than enough
to get you through.
This is my ninth book for the 2014 Europa Challenge.
I did not receive this book for review.