Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.
In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?
I’m having a little bit of a struggle coming up with the words to describe how I feel about this one. Clearly, I enjoyed it, but I can’t quite work out what it was about it that I liked so much, and then how I can get that across in my review. Let’s go through this one step at a time…
This book is very much about neighbourly relationships. It’s based in the small village of Beauval where everyone knows everyone, there are friends in the village and there are enemies. They live everyday surrounded by people who know everything about them. There are a load of books about the small-town-mentality at the moment, it’s clearly a very “in” thing for authors at the moment. Some of them I like, others I find boring or distressing. This one was just perfect for me!
We begin the novel in 1999 and this is where we get most of the small-town vibes. We meet Antoine and his mother, whose only worry is to keep up with appearances. We meet the neighbours, the Desmedt’s and Mouchottes. We meet the town butcher, Monsieur Kowalski. We meet the Weiser’s – the mayor and his son Theo. We meet a lot of different people, but they all have a very important role to play within the story.
It’s the 23rd December 1999 and little Remi Desmedt has gone missing. There are plenty of the theories as to his disappearance, but we know what’s happened to him, and we know where he is. What follows is a slow paced novel about the effects of Remi’s disappearance on the town and the theories and judgments each villager makes on anyone suspected of having taken the young boy.
The majority of this novel is set in the few days after Remi’s disappearance in 1999. This was definitely my favourite part of the novel. It was enjoyable to follow the story through Antoine’s mind-set, who is 12 at the time. But as we move through the story, we meet Antoine again in 2011 and then again in 2015, but these parts of the book aren’t as enjoyable to read.
As we progress through the novel, Antoine keeps coming up against challenges he needs to overcome. Will he do the right thing, or will he do anything to keep his secrets close?
Like I said before, this novel is slow paced, but I quite like that in a books sometimes. This is advertised as a thriller but I wouldn’t think of is like that, this feels more like a general fiction novel to be honest. This was also described as “suspenseful”, but again, I’m going to disagree with that. See what I mean about not being able to describe my feelings on it? I’m at a loss for words on what I feel this books was like! What I can say is that I love Lemaitre’s way of writing. It really sucked me into the story and for this reason, I’m definitely checking out his other stuff!
Something I also know is that I enjoyed this book, for the most part. If it hadn’t been for the 2011 and 2015 chapters, and the direction they took, this could have been a 5 star read for me.
Thank you to Quercus Publishing & MacLehose Press for sending me an arc copy for review.