30 March 2016

Olivier Adam: Le Cœur régulier (2010)

Coincidentally, I'm writing this on the first day of the French release of the movie of this novel, which is just one of several of Olvier Adam's that have received the cinematic treatment, and on watching the trailer many things seem to hit the target: characters, mood and scenery above all.

Sarah has been sleep-walking though life: she's studied a course in sales technique, married fellow student Alain who has swiftly risen in the ranks of his profession with a high-ranking salary to match, and they have two adolescent children, but something is wrong: the fact that they haven't had sex for years and Alain regularly visits prostitutes is just one indication of this.

Yes, this is of course another example of Adam's unhappy, dysfunctional families. Nathan is Sarah's soul-mate brother, although since her decline into boring domesticity with a boring right-wing husband he's tended to see Sarah less often. Nathan is of course left-wing and rebellious and has just got by on bum jobs, with hopes of becoming a successful novelist. But he's an alcoholic and furthermore suffers from bipolar disorder, which makes for a very unstable personality.

Things come to a tragic head when Nathan dies in a road accident, which Sarah feels sure was suicide although her parents want to shove that idea under the carpet. But she was the closest family member to him and is surprised to learn the existence of Nathan's lover Louise, who is pregnant by him. She feels compelled to trace Nathan's movements, to stay for a time in the place where he found peace, like a kind of promised land: Japan.

At first Sarah stays in a pension near the rugged cliffs, a noted suicide spot stalked by night by the retired detective-turned-suicide-dissuader Natsume Dombari, who is based on the real Yukio Shige. Sarah is calmly apprehended by Natsume and invited to stay in his house with two other potential suicide cases: the adolescent Haruki (who is later revealed as the murderer of his parents), and Midori (a young woman whose child has been killed in a road accident).

Here and around the town Sarah learns to become calmer, to develop something of the peace of mind her brother found here. And her brother is remembered  with great fondness by several of the people in the town: by Hiromi, the teenaged daughter of the keeper of the pension; by the vending machine man who has a brief but loving fling with Sarah; and most important of all, perhaps, by Natsume.

After a few months in Japan, Sarah returns to France to find her perfect husband has found someone else but left her ample provisions in her new life. Much more negatively, her daughter has been wasting away since Nathan's death, mainly existing on a diet of alcohol and cannabis, but at least she's no longer an absent parent to her two children, and she has the psychological strength to start over. Oh, and Nathan's novel was found worth publishing, although only after many cuts and emendations: unfortunately, the only person who can render it publishable is dead, making the event somewhat impossible. I'd rate this as the best Olivier Adam novel I've read so far.

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Olivier Adam: Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas
Olivier Adam: Des vents contraires
Olivier Adam: Les Lisières
Olivier Adam: Falaises

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