Do you know the French writer Jean Echenoz?

We read one of his books, Envoyée spéciale, in our last book club with some of Alliance Française  students and other members of the public in Bristol.

We always have a lively discussion with people really engaging with the characters or the story or both, all in French of course.

With this book it was particularly interesting as the content and the style are rather unusual to say the least, here are some of the adjectives to describe the plot (l’intrigue):

Improbable; incongrue (incongruous); fantaisiste (fanciful); rocambolesque (incredible, fantastic);

But also to describe the style:

Humoristique (full of humour); virtuose (masterly); détaillé; classique (classicist) ; allègre (cheerful, light-hearted)

It was fascinating to discuss which adjectives fitted who or what if at all. There were some disagreements at first then people changed their minds, all of it in a very friendly atmosphere, people sharing their interest in the French language and in their love for literature.

Now if you are intrigued, all you have to do is read the book. But a word of warning:

Oubliez toutes vos conceptions sur le roman et lisez-le sans à priori. (Forget all preconceived ideas on what a novel is and read it with an open mind, without prior assumptions)

This is what one of our students said after the book club:

“I must say that after our last club I even changed my original approach to the book. From initially finding it a bit too bizarre, to appreciate a depth that I had not noticed.”

Bonne lecture!

Do check Alliance Française de Bristol website for the next book club and perhaps JOIN US!

I’m very grateful for the club de lecture — it has given me that extra bit of incentive to read (and finish!) books in French.  Sometimes I like the chosen book, sometimes I don’t.  But I invariably learn something from it, including lots of new vocabulary.  And I always leave Martine’s book club meetings with a much better understanding of each book, having heard everyone else’s impressions and comments.  I’ve already started reading the next book and look forward to joining the discussion again in a few months! Sue H

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