Title: French Leave
Author: Anna Gavalda
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Europa Editions
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Garance is traveling to a wedding in the French countryside with her brother, Simon, and his nagging wife, Carine. Along the way, they pick up their older sister, Lola, and it’s clear Simon’s wife is less than thrilled with this turn of events. Upon arriving at the wedding, the three siblings realize they’d rather be anywhere but where they are at that moment, and make the impulsive decision to skip the wedding and go visit their brother Vincent.
French Leave is a whimsical novel about leaving all your responsibilities behind and just basking in the beauty and wonder of life. On the car ride to the wedding, Garance, Simon, and Lola are weighed down by their fears and worries. Carine’s constant criticisms grate on Simon’s and Garance’s nerves; they are preoccupied by the thought of the sibling who won’t make it to the wedding. The novel revolves around its premise of escaping from real life for just a few hours, the desire for which most people can sympathize.
This is a slip of a book, more of a novella than a full fledged novel, but Gavalda still develops her characters well. Through Garance’s pitch perfect narration, the reader comes to understand all the people around her. Gavalda somehow manages to establish deep relationships among these characters with just a few choice words and phrases. Surprisingly, one of the characters I felt most strongly about was Carine, a woman who was very difficult to like. Through her nagging, I could see her insecurities, and it must have been very difficult for her for her husband to abandon her at a wedding. It’s a testament to Gavalda’s talent that I could sympathize with the most unlikable character in French Leave.
Gavalda’s descriptions are also amazing. She writes France beautifully, and the countryside comes alive in the reader’s mind. Though this novel is short, and isn’t one of those that will stick with you for months, it’s an enjoyable little romp. It’s perfect for a summer afternoon, when you’re in the mood for a light and refreshing read; though this was my first novel by Anna Gavalda, it certainly won’t be my last.