Big dumb book
March 17, 2010
I recently finished a big dumb book grabbed in haste from the library with two hungry kids in tow, and I flung it angrily once I’d skimmed to the end because I felt cheated. I love a good thriller, the ones reviewers call “taut,” and this one was translated from the French, which suggested a literary highbrow Euroflair slant on the thriller genre, plus cigarette smoking, extramarital affairs, and lingering meals followed by strong coffee and pungent liquors, all things missing from my life.
The narrator has been injured in a bomb blast and is not only paralyzed but blind and mute. I ought to have rejected that premise from the get-go, but again my children were frantic and in my haste I thought only, Neat! Throughout much of the novel she is spooned herbal tea and kneaded relentlessly by her masseuse. People confide in her, long monologues, centrally a child who may have witnessed the murder of other children. No fewer than three men fall in love with her, and one of them gropes and smooches her. The child murderer tries and fails (?) to drown her, presumably because she poses some kind of threat. She knows too much, and can communicate volumes by raising and lowering her index finger.
She’s a big sentient doll who is lugged from scene to scene, and none of the things she learns as mute, devouring ear to many confessions get us any closer to solving the mystery. Yet I skimmed it to the end, reader. Why? I still wanted to know who dunnit, thought I was certain the knowledge would only confound and infuriate me. And the best I can say is that at least the narrator did not turn out to be the murderer herself through astral projection or faking her disabilities. Though that would have been more satisfying than revelation of the actual murderer, a kind of harried housewife (though capable of complex machinations to divert suspicion) whose own son had been murdered, hence her compulsion to murder the sons of others (really?). Maybe it goes down better in French. Maybe everything does.