breaking“I hadn’t even sat down yet, one buttock still hovering, my hand on the car door, and already my sister-in-law was on the attack.”

Most of you reading this probably have siblings. Older or younger, brother or sister, one or many, you may well have grown up with another one in the nest, seeking the same attention as you. I have a sister who is currently farming and emu-wrangling* her way through Australia and I miss her a lot. This book was perhaps not the right thing to read, then.

*possibly

Most of the action takes place in one location – a car. Garance has just been picked up by her brother Simon and his shrew of a wife Carine, and they are now off to a family wedding. The story is told from Garance’s point of view and is pretty much a review of the relationships and lives of her and her three siblings – Simon, Lola and Vincent.

Garance worships all three of her siblings, incomplete without any of them, thinking that each of them is a saint in their own ways (except Simon, who is better than a saint). It builds up a tapestry of their relationships merely through her wandering thoughts as they push through the French countryside. Lola eventually confirms that she’s coming too, so they pick her up from the station (much to Carine’s annoyance) and then head off to the wedding. Arriving, they discover that Vincent isn’t coming, so the three slip away and head to his chateau to find him.

It’s a little novella, but there isn’t a word wasted among its pages. It’s beautiful, charming, warm and above all real. You want to be able to sit with these people and it feels like an honour to be allowed to spend a little time with them. It is exquisite in its construction, given that, as mentioned, most of it takes place in the same confined location with just three present characters. It’s a book about adulthood, and how we all have to let go of our childhood, even though the real world is full of disappointments, bad lovers, mistakes and responsibilities we’d rather ignore (the throwaway line about what Garance does for a living is a bit of a shock given what you’ve learnt of her so up until that point).

It’s happy but sad at the same time, and a gorgeous little novel to finish up the year on.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2014! X

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