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MBI 2019 Longlist: The Years by Annie Ernaux

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Book 10 read and reviewed by panellists Book Worm and Tracy.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Considered by many to be the iconic French memoirist’s defining work, The Years is a narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, cultural habits, language, photos, books, songs, radio, television, advertising and news headlines. Annie Ernaux invents a form that is subjective and impersonal, private and communal, and a new genre – the collective autobiography – in order to capture the passing of time. At the confluence of autofiction and sociology, The Years is ‘a Remembrance of Things Past for our age of media domination and consumerism’ (New York Times), a monumental account of twentieth-century French history as refracted through the life of one woman.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is a difficult book to rate mainly because our rating criteria is largely irrelevant to how this story is told. This is a history of a lifetime told through key world events and societal changes with a specific focus on how these changes affect women in France. There are no named characters instead we hear different thoughts from different women in different times as we move from the 1941 to 2006, my thoughts are the author herself is one of the women we hear from multiple times as there is mention of wanting to write this history, but in terms of character there is no one to relate to specifically or to develop with.

Plot development has the same issue this is the story of world events and as such there is no beginning, middle or end, there is no progress toward a central resolution or storyline in fact this book could carry on ad infinitum by relating new events as they occur.

I liked what this book was aiming to do however I think it fell short in the execution.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 1/4
Plot development: 1/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 10/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: I Started reading this, wondering why it was chosen for a fiction list. I finished, and I’m still not sure why it was chosen as a work of fiction, when it’s really more of a summary of events in the life of the author. Whether or not it qualifies for the prize, it was a compelling read-seeing the world through the real life diary of a baby boomer from France.

The writing alternated between first person plural and third person. The prose was simple, often bullet-pointed as it hits the high (or low) points of history. It conveyed the fears, elations, and ennui of the times and the people very well. I was reminded of the voice and descriptions of the Neopolitan novels by Ferrante. But there was a certain something else that I can’t put my finger on yet. I ended up liking this book very much.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot development: 2/4 (not really applicable)
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15.5/20

Combined Rating: 12.75

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Rankings:

Love in the New Millennium 18/20
The Remainder 17.3/20
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead 16.5/20
The Faculty of Dreams 14.5/20
Mouthful of Birds 14.5/20
Celestial Bodies 14/20
Four Soldiers 14/20
The Years 12.75/20
The Death of Murat Idrissi 10.5/20
At Dusk 9.5/20

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I liked your review Tracy. The Years is so far the best book I have read this year. Here is my ecstatic review – but I agree, this is not a novel, it even got an award for nonfiction last year: https://wordsandpeace.com/2019/03/29/book-review-the-years/

    Like

    April 3, 2019

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