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A SUNDAY IN VILLE-D'AVRAY by Dominique Barbéris
Translated by John Cullen
One mild autumn day, Jane makes her way by train to visit her sister, Claire Marie, in the outer Parisian suburb of Ville-d’Avray. En route she recalls their sweet but unremarkable upbrining. Life and marriage have caused them to drift (their husbands don’t much like each other) but their bond endures and Jane comes to visit, usually alone, from time to time. Wistful and lush, despite its sparse prose, A Sunday in Ville-D’Avray seems a quiet, gentle book about the complexities of sisterly love. That is, until Jane arrives and Barbéris pulls the rug out from under the reader.
In an unguarded moment, Claire Marie confides a dark secret - long ago she had an affair of the heart (if not the body) with one of her husband’s patients. It was intense and all-consuming, and then he disappeared. None of his remarkable backstory checked out. All the while, the town was on alert for a pervert - likely a tramp - who had been accosting young girls in secluded parklands. Claire Marie’s stories are tremors that rock the country idyll. Barbéris’s brilliance lies in her restraint: she does nothing to quell them. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray by Dominique Barbéris (Tr. John Cullen)
Other Press, 2021