28 September 2014

Olivier Adam: Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas (1999)

This is Olivier Adam's first novel, and bears some of the hallmarks of the two other novels of his I've read (À l'abri de rien and Les Lisières), but above all identity crisis.

Claire (a name too ironic for its own good) is twenty-two and, in spite of her bac, works as a supermarket cashier with no ambition to 'better' her existence. This is no doubt because two years previously her brother Loïc, two years younger and evidently much brighter than Claire, just disappeared. Claire had been away at the time and her parents Paul and Irène had to break the news to her.

And this news comes out of the blue like, well, like any other cliché you might want to attach to it. Claire was deeply attached to Loïc, a little like the twin brother the film version of this book (which I've not seen) depicts: they did so many things together, enjoyed the same things, and so on.

Claire isn't, er, clear about the reason for Loïc's disappearance, and all she knows is that he had an argument with his father. She slips into depression and then a postcard comes from him to tell her, as the title of the book says, that he's fine and not to worry. 

Claire's work is monotonous, ok, but Adam over-emphasizes this by the constant repetition of consumer products bought: we get the message only too well, don't lay it on so heavily! But the message Loïc has recently sent Claire from Portbail in the Cotentin peninsula is enough to send her off in a hired car for a week's 'holiday' in search of her brother. She meets a guy there (who will later only add to her alienation, her sense of inferiority) but she also sees her father appear out of nowhere and post a letter.

Loving parents? Well, perhaps, but also lying parents. It will take the mysterious Julien – who has discovered that Loïc didn't just 'disappear' in the English sense, but 'disappeared' in the French sense of died two year before – but the reader feels that here is a man who will know how to heal Claire, cut through her parents' lies.

Some first novels are written by people who have everything to spell (or spill) out first time round, but this was obviously not the case with Olivier Adam. The book is on the surface a very easy read (which I think has slightly irritated some reviewers): short sentences, uncomplicated syntax and vocabulary, etc, and for me too many coincidences, but how much does all this actually reveal about what Olivier Adam is trying to say in this novel? Or are some things just supposed to be left as mysteries?

My other posts on Olivier Adam:

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Olivier Adam: Les Lisières
Olivier Adam: Des vents contraires
Olivier Adam: Le Cœur régulier
Olivier Adam: Falaises

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