I wanted to read Philippe Claudel since years and looking for a WWI novel I came across his Grey Souls – Les âmes grises. Like most of his other books the novel has been translated into 25 languages and was generally liked by readers and critics. From what I know so far, the war is not predominant in the novel. It’s more like the starting point to a crime which is solved much later. From some of the reviews I got that it’s quite heavy and brooding.
Here is the blurb
This is ostensibly a detective story, about a crime that is committed in 1917, and solved 20 years later. The location is a small town in Northern France. The war is still being fought in the trenches, within sight and sound of the town, but the men of the town have been spared the slaughter because they are needed in the local factory. One freezing cold morning in the dead of winter, a beautiful ten year old girl, one of three daughters of the local innkeeper, is found strangled and dumped in the canal. Suspicion falls on two deserters who are picked up near the town. Their interrogation and sentencing is brutal and swift.
Twenty years later, the narrator, a local policeman, puts together what actually happened. On the night the deserters were arrested and interrogated, he was sitting by the bedside of his dying wife. He believes that justice was not done and wants to set the record straight. But the death of the child was not the only crime committed in the town during those weeks.
The first sentences:
I don’t really know where to start. It’s quite difficult. All this time that has gone by, which words will never bring back, the faces too, and the smiles, the wounds. Still I need to try to say it. Say what’s been bothering me for twenty years. The remorse and the big questions. I have to cut open the mystery with a knife, just like a belly, and sink my hands in, even if that’s not going to change a thing.
The book has been made into a movie but I don’t know whether it’s available in English
The discussion starts on Friday, 30 August 2013.
Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2013, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.
36 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong August 30 2013: Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel”
This looks like an interesting book, Caroline! A WWI novel with focus on a murder mystery – it sounds fascinating, though from your description of it, it also looks a bit sad. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Happy reading!
I have a feeling it’s quite depressing. I saw a review on Kim’s page (Reading Matters) and she foud it very dark. And bleak, like Emma said.
I’ve read this one. It’s bleak but well written. I hope you’ll like it.
I hope so too. I’m afraid it’s a bleak choice, yes. Did you like it? I seem to remember you didn’t.
This one sounds great. Unfortunately i’ll be out of town that week. Can’t wait to read your thoughts when I get back to London. Happy reading.
Thanks, TBM. Too bad you can’t join. Next time. You can always read it later.
I need to read some books on WWII for a project I’m working on. Let me know if you have some must reads for me.
Non-Fiction or fiction?
I see. It’s a vast topic, I don’t really know where to start. I think I’ve read more about WWI.
One of the best novels was Helen Dunmore’s The Siege but it’s very specific.
I liked Chris Bohjalain’s Skeletno at a Feast as well.
I think you’d have to narrow it down – the I could maybe give you another suggestion.
I’m planning on reading Diaries next year. The war time diaries in Simon Garfield’s We Are at War look terrific.
It really depends. Is it for your own book? How about Aimée and Jaguar? It’s been made into a movie and you will find it heartbreaking. I’ve started the book but have to return to it. It’s amazing.
Anonyma is great too – for a female perspective.
I love both of those covers. A Woman in Berlin really draws me in. Will pick up the ones you suggest. I think once I read a few non-fiction books I can narrow in on what I want to focus on. I have a story that’s developing in my mind–won’t necessarily be historical fiction, but will reference the war and certain experiences. Thanks so much for the suggestions!
You’re very welcome. If you want to tell me more you can always do that via e-mail and I might be able to help better.
I’ll take you up on that. Probably won’t be soon since I don’t have time to focus on it completely at the moment. But I’m gathering books to start. Thanks for the offer!
Diaries for the readalong, or just on your own? Why am I already curious about next year’s list?! 🙂
For the readalong. I think we need something new next year. I’m thinking of a more non-fiction readalong. Or at least 6 out 12 non-fiction books and diaries seem to be a great way.
I’m already in the mood to compile it. 🙂
Yes it is available in English. I have a copy and I’ll join in if I have time.
I meant the book–no clue about the film which I would really like to see BTW.
I’d like to wathc it as well. maybe after I’ve finished the book. It should be a quick read, only 200 pages.
Great. It seems to be out of print by now.
Not sure if this is for me, but I look forward to your commentary, Caroline.
Thanks Carole. I’m a bit worried now it might be too bleak.
I can take bleak if it’s written really, really well.
It should be very well written. I’m keen o reading him, he always gets such great reviews.
Stories about single murders near the much larger carnage of war are interesting for some reason. Perhaps the irony of the situation is what intrigues us.
I looked but could not be sure if there is an English subtitled version of the film available.
Yes, it seesm absurd.
I’m not sure if there is a subtitled version.
This is one I’d really like to read along with, if I can find the space in my schedule. I’ll definitely be trying.
It would be great to have you. It’s a short book, under 200 pages, so maybe you can make it.
Looks like a great read – I will have to check it out!
Maybe you could join us? That would be great.
Interesting! a war story and detective story. It reminds me of Tokyo Zodiak Murder, the crime took place 20years ago
Thanks for mentioning that. I remember your review I thought it sounded great but at the time I couldn’t find a cheap copy.
Sounds like a really good book, but not sure I’ll be participating since I can’t get it through interlibrary loan. I’m looking forward to the discussion though.
Too bad, Anna. Next time, hopefully.
Interesting! I have my copy ready and think I will start it tomorrow–I will be taking it to work with me!
I hope it’s not too dark. It’s not ideal summer reading. 🙂 But if Emma says it’s well written, I’m sure we will at least like the writing.