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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Someone I loved

Anna Gavalda

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Someone I loved

Title: Someone I loved
Author: Anna Gavalda
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 325 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Someone I loved - US
Someone I loved - UK
Someone I loved - Canada
Je l'aimais - Canada
Someone I loved - India
Je l'aimais - France
Ich habe sie geliebt - Deutschland
Io l'amavo - Italia
  • French title: Je l'aimais
  • Translated by Catherine Evans
  • The American paperback edition contains both the English and French versions of the text

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Our Assessment:

B- : effectively presented fluff

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 5/5/2003 Hubert Spiegel
Publishers Weekly . 14/3/2005 .
Die Welt . 29/3/2003 Uwe Wittstock
World Literature Today . 7-9/2003 Lucille F. Becker

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wo jede Banalität derart grotesk aufgeblasen wird, müssen die sprachlichen Unzulänglichkeiten um so deutlicher auffallen." - Hubert Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Gavalda's prose style is refreshingly elliptical, though often the reader longs for more than a scrap of exposition." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Natürlich, nichts von alledem ist sonderlich originell, Geschichten wie diese gibt es zu Dutzenden. Auch sind die langen Dialoge dieses Buches eher solide als brillant. Doch die unvermittelte Direktheit, mit der Anna Gavalda die beiden Erfahrungen nebeneinander stellt, auf der einen Seite das Unglück der verlassenen Frau, auf der anderen das Unglück des Mannes, der blieb, macht ihren Roman trotz allem zu einer eindrucksvollen Lektüre." - Uwe Wittstock, Die Welt

  • "Gavalda's talent for writing and her gift for dialogue make reading her work a delight. It is only later that the reader realizes that the conversation between Chloé and Pierre is the matter of every television talk show, and that Pierre's concluding words -- "Wouldn't that little headstrong girl have preferred to live with a happy grandfather ?" -- are ridiculous." - Lucille F. Becker, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Someone I loved tells that familiar story:

You love a man, you have two children with him, and one winter morning, you learn that he has left because he loves someone else. Saying he is sorry, that he made a mistake.
       That's what has happened to Chloé, and this is her account of some of the aftermath. It's hit her hard, and it's her father-in-law, Pierre, who thinks he knows what's best: he takes Chloé and the two little girls to their house in the country (leaving his baffled wife behind).
       It sounds like more of a recipe to force her to stew in her own juices and frustratedly try to keep the kids occupied, but the girls are easily pacified by cartoons on TV and the unlikely Pierre turns out (eventually) to be an accessible conversation partner who has quite a bit to say as well.
       Someone I loved is presented in short bursts -- of conversation and experience -- building up in the longer exchanges between Chloé and Pierre. Gavalda isn't one for colour commentary, she throws the dialogue on the page, offering a transcript of the spoken words with only hints of inflection and mood.
       The talk is far-ranging. There are lots of issues to be raised. Oddly, the behaviour of the son and husband, Adrien, isn't much spoken about: a few memories, yes, but the central act of abandonment is treated in almost cursory manner.
       Pierre was apparently a difficult father-figure, Chloé accusing him:
     "Listen to me, Pierre; for years I lived with a man who couldn't stand up straight because his father hadn't supported him correctly. When I met Adrien, he didn't dare do anything for fear of disappointing you. And everything he did disappointed me because he never did it for himself, he did it for you.
       Pierre seems to have realised some of the errors of his ways, indulging his grand-daughters now, and opening up to Chloé about his own youthful timidity -- and the love-affair he had. Indeed, his story dominates the book. Obviously it had ramifications for Chloé and Adrien's failed marriage, yet it's still an odd shift of emphasis, from the here and now to the past.
       Are there lessons here ? A lot is churned:
     "Are you sleepy ?"
     I was upset.
     "How can you expect me to sleep with everything that's been churned up ? I feel like I'm stirring a huge cauldron ..."
     "I untie knots while you stir your cauldron. It's funny, the images we use ..."
       Ha, ha.
       Gavalda's novel is the epitome of the breezy read: one almost feels like one is brushing across the pages, getting a sweeping impression of family-saga and personal hurts. But it's all surface, with almost no depth. It's the talk one hears, in a bar or in a country home late at night, but without even a proper impression of the people involved it's ultimately very empty. It gives the impression of exposing to emotion, of uncovering truth, and yet after closing the book there's almost nothing left -- and it's clear there was almost nothing there in the first place.
       There are bursts that ring true, small scenes of the bewilderment that comes in the wake of such a life-changing event, for example, but it doesn't add up to enough.
       Gavalda's presentation is, in a way, effective. The quick-fire pace of constant shifts, the moodiness. Letting the spoken words stand on their own. It reads well -- or easily, at least. But it doesn't get you anywhere.

       Note: that admirably the American paperback original includes both the English and French text -- and it's an ideal book for those learning French to get some practice with. Something we'd like to see more of.

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Someone I loved: Reviews: Other books Anna Gavalda under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature
  • See Index of Bilingual editions under review

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About the Author:

       French author Anna Gavalda was born in 1970. She has written several immensely popular works of fiction.

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© 2007-2015 the complete review

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