Okay so the move is officially over and I’m back on my reading challenge schedule! I was reading Tess of the D’Uberville, but then I got bored and put it down. Instead I read the book A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot.
On a cold Saturday night in January, 1917, five French soldiers, sentenced to death for self-mutilation, are thrown over the front lines to die. Among them was Mathilde’s fiancé. Two years after receiving the notice that her beloved Manech was “killed in the line of duty” Mathilde learns of the strange and furtive events which transpired on that snowy night. Thus begins her relentless quest to find out if her fiancé is, in fact, alive. Through letters, conversations, and military documents Mathilde begins to piece together the story of her fiancé’s execution. What she uncovers is an intricate web of military corruption, deception, and brutality. Mathilde’s resolve does not waiver, even when she begins to realize that the truth may be more dangerous than the lie.
I am not sure if I can really do this book justice. It is such a great story and the characters are just amazing. The main character, Mathilde, is a young French woman who is paralyzed from the waist down. She is smart and snarky and impatient. When she suspects that one of the people she is interviewing isn’t being straight with her she calls him a “shit kicking idiot”. This chick super rocks. I also love how her disability isn’t a “thing”. It is not a plot device. It isn’t written about with a sense of “oh look what she was able to accomplish even from a wheel chair”. She just happens to be in a wheelchair and the story simply incorporate the logistics of being wheelchair bound in her setting. She interacts with a lot of other great characters as well. In her quest to find out what happened to Manech she uncovers the lives and war stories of the other four condemned men. Through the stories of their loved ones and colleagues you are let into this intimate world of the blurred lines of morality and the amazing relationships that are shattered during war. This book is part mystery, part epic war, part romance, and captures your attention from the very beginning. I cannot recommend it (or its movie adaptation) highly enough. The only downside to the book is that it can be difficult to follow at times because you are unraveling the stories of five men (all of whom are called by multiple names and have multiple people associated with them). Luckily it is all wrapped up really nicely at the end and you are let in on the entire story.
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