Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Books Read: Claudie Gallay - In the Gold of Time

A young father holidays by the sea near Dieppe with his reproachfully perfect wife and their twin daughters. Returning from the local shop, he meets an eccentric old lady, Alice Berthier, who lives with her mute sister, Clemence. Their mysterious house is full of old photographs and strange objects - sacred ceremonial masks once belonging to the Hopi, a tribe of Native Americans from Arizona.

Haunted by memories of a tragic past, Alice takes comfort in her new companion and he, in turn, is drawn into her mysterious world. As his family recedes into the background, her stirring tales of the Hopi, and the Arizona desert become the only salve to his despondent soul.

I have to confess that when a copy of In the Gold of Time dropped through my letterbox it was not one that I thought instantly... oh I can't wait to read this, I'd never heard of this author before and the synopsis didn't instantly grab me. 

When a young family leave their Montreuil apartment for their annual holiday to their summer home, I'm sure that they envisaged lots of quality family together on the beach.  But it doesn't turn out that way, near the beginning of the holiday the dad goes off to buy strawberries to make a birthday cake for his twin daughter's 7th birthday, but on the way home he encounters an old woman, Alice Berthier, struggling with her own shopping so he helps her home.  But when he returns home he discovers he'd left the strawberries behind which gives him the opportunity to return to see Alice who intrigues him.

Each day, rather than spend time with his family, he finds himself drawn back to Alice and the house and through her captive audience, Alice is able to tell the story that's been locked up inside of her through old photographs and the Hopi artifacts that her father brought back from Arizona many years previously.

There were several things I found strange about this story, the first being that we never do get to find out the father's name even though he's the main character in this story but yet we're introduced to the rest of the characters in the book.  I also found it hard to put myself in his shoes to see what was the attraction in Alice and her story to pull him away from spending time with his own family who he could be in danger of losing.

I'm afraid my first instincts were definitely right about this book, I didn't love it, sorry.  I'm not sure if it's because of the translation from French to English or the way it's been written, it was all a bit too dis-jointed for me and the story didn't flow easily off the page. 

But despite not loving this book I'd still like to thank Quercus Books for sending me a copy of the book to review.  If you don't try reading new authors or different style of books you won't find out whether you like them or not.

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