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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Child

Pascale Kramer

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To purchase The Child

Title: The Child
Author: Pascale Kramer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 158 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Child - US
The Child - UK
The Child - Canada
Un homme ébranlé - Canada
The Child - India
Un homme ébranlé - France
  • French title: Un homme ébranlé
  • Translated by Tamsin Black

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Our Assessment:

B : somber portrait

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Temps . 15/1/2011 Lisbeth Koutchoumoff

  From the Reviews:
  • "L’écriture de Pascale Kramer, qui épouse jusqu’au souffle de Simone, crée chez le lecteur des images mentales fortes. Qui n’ont pas tant à voir avec la maladie même. L’élégance évite le voyeurisme ou la dramatisation dans ce registre. Les nausées, les vomissements sont là. Point. Le véritable sujet du livre se situe ailleurs, dans ce lieu même où les mots n’ont plus court, où les yeux seuls tentent de parler, ce lieu de silence qui accable mais qui paradoxalement contient la possibilité du rebond, de la vie d’après." - Lisbeth Koutchoumoff, Le Temps

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:

       The Child centers around the household of terminally ill Claude and Simone, who has to watch the man she loved rotting away before her eyes at a still relatively young age, wondering already about what the future holds. Claude has two sons from previous relationships: the grown Cédric, already married and with a young girl of his own, whom Simone had first met when he was in his teens and her relationship with Claude was just beginning, and Gaël, a now eleven-year-old boy whom Claude never met and whom Simone knew nothing about.
       The novel focusses on Simone, rather than the dying man, and the story revolves around two visits Gaël makes to their household: one a short visit, the second meant to be a longer one -- his mother has to travel abroad for two weeks and leaves the boy with them -- though it is cut short. (Note that while in English the title of the book is 'the child', the French original points to Claude, as 'un homme ébranlé' -- a shaken/disturbed man.)
       Claude, a former gym teacher, seems more or less resigned to his fate. Stoically he had ignored his pains, until when he finally went to the doctor the cancer was caught much too late. Similarly, they have stuck it out in their neighborhood even after many of their old neighbors abandoned it and as it goes to seed. Society at large remains in the background here, but parts of it -- reports of riots, police sirens going by, deaths -- intrude in what is now only a limitedly safe haven.
       Kramer's family portrait is a somber one. Simone tries not to be too put off by Claude's physical disintegration, but he is, essentially, rotting away before her eyes. The arrival of the boy is a bright spot of sorts, but Gaël is also a reminder of the other loves in Claude's life, and Simone can't help but feel some jealousy. The willful child also doesn't easily fit her expectations: she is drawn to him, but he remains a mystery to her, yet another element beyond her control.
       Simone can't help but think of what is to come -- the time after Claude. Claude, meanwhile, seems to have embraced death, the final cruel blow from a world that has consistently not lived up to his expectations but whose many disappointments he has long resigned himself to.
       Kramer's unindulgent presentation of a world with no illusions is admirably but unpleasantly direct. She doesn't exactly wallow in Claude's condition, but it is presented with clinical clarity (and he really isn't in good shape). Simone's observations and reactions are presented with what can feel like brutal honesty. The Child certainly feels 'real' -- but, yes, reality can be hard to take, and it certainly is here.
       Impressive, in a way, but not pleasant.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 March 2013

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The Child: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French-writing Swiss author Pascale Kramer was born in 1961.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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