‘The Party Wall’ by Catherine Leroux – Linked Stories of Four Family Member Pairs

 

‘The Party Wall’ by Catherine Leroux (2013) – 243 pages Translated from the French by Lazer Lederhendler

‘The Party Wall’ is a highly original intriguing work about four pairs of family members. Thus we have young sisters Monette and Angie, husband and wife Ariel and Marie, brother and sister Simon and Carmen, and double woman Madeleine and Madeleine (If you are wondering why Madeleine is listed twice, read the book).

Catherine Leroux is a Canadian author from Quebec writing in French.

At first there seems to be no linkage between the four separate stories but subtle connections develop. The arrangement of the stories is quite unique with a very short story about the little sisters Angie and Monette opening each new section, and the other three stories each first having a opening section and then later each has a closing section. All this jumping around did seem somewhat disjointed and hard for me to follow, but I’m sure the author had her purposes.

My favorite of the stories is that of the politician Ariel and his wife Marie, so I will mainly refer to that story. Politician Ariel rises to a Canadian leadership role only for him and his wife to become the subjects of a huge scandal through no fault of their own. They wind up having to leave Quebec in disgrace and wind up in the sparse plains of Saskatchewan. Leroux gives us an apt description of the people living there:

In any event, in this region of vast distances, where neighbors are recognized by virtue of their cars more than their faces, no one studies them up close. The inhabitants of central Saskatchewan have become so scarce they hardly look at each other and are identified from a sideways glance at their hairdos, their voices, the unique vibration of their presence, always perfectly distinct from someone else’s.”

The political scandal that beset Ariel and Marie involved an extremely rare medical or biological family anomaly which I won’t reveal. All three of the main stories are driven by just such uncommon biological aberrations, and I felt the author over-relied on this plot device.

Another device the Leroux overuses is the surprise grotesque horrific ending. Stories don’t have to be grotesque or have dreadful endings in order to be interesting. If they have quiet happy endings, they might be even more satisfying for the reader, at least for me.

‘The Party Wall’ is a difficult novel to rate. The writing itself is intelligent and well-crafted and carried me along pleasantly. I suppose its odd arrangement, one-in-a-million coincidences, and sudden terrible conclusions could all be considered part of its charm. However I would not count on it.

 

Grade:   B

 

 

2 responses to this post.

  1. So very interesting, Tony, your comment about the horrific endings. I can read some very odd and surreal material, but I prefer it to be weird, not like what you describe here which seems to be a popular trend among many writers. I have had this book for years, but I can’t see rushing to it based on your measured response, not when I have many more books vying for my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi roughghosts,
      One big problem I had was definitely the arrangement of the stories. First we have the first halves of the three main stories. Then we have the three last halves of these stories and some minor connections between them are established. By the time I got to the last halves of the stories, I had pretty much forgotten what happened in the first halves except for the politician story. It was confusing. And then in the last halves there were what I felt were unearned horrific endings. Others may react differently, but that is how I reacted.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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