A Cage in Search of a Bird

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Title: A Cage In Search of a Bird (original title: L’illusion délirante d’être aimé)

Writer: Florence Noiville (tr. by Teresa Lavender Fagan)

Publishing House: Seagull Books

Date of Publication: September 15th 2016 (first published August 18th 2015)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Perhaps because I have too much respect for language, I suffer during conversations when nothing is being said, when words turn on themselves, like in an empty tub of a washing machine. Washed out, deformed, with no more colour or shine. So I prefer to retreat. But no one seems to understand. Silence and solitude have become luxuries.’’

When you have survived the epitome of a toxic friendship, and six high-school years with someone who bought the same clothes and accessories as you, who read the same books even though she hated reading, who applied the same make-up, chose the same schoolbag and tried to be besties with your Mum while you were struggling to run away from someone who wanted to be YOU to the point of obsession and ridicule, this novel acquires a whole new meaning. Luckily, I didn’t have to face the same destructive relationship our heroine does but the memories are no less traumatic…

De Clérambault’s Syndrome. The delusional belief that someone is in love with you but they are too afraid to admit it or the world prevents them from being with you. The patients create a universe where everyone and everything stands between the object of their ‘’love’’ and themselves. They stop at nothing. Τhey are a danger to others and to themselves. Laura finds herself in a nightmarish situation. A former classmate returns and evades her life. And steals it. Manipulating Laura into a web of guilt and goodwill, C manages to form a social circle where everyone likes her. Laura tries to convince everyone of C’s madness but it is all in vain. She is on her own. And she needs to fight back and survive.

There is quiet terror hidden in the pages of this novel. This is how I felt while I was reading. I finished – nay, devoured it- in two hours and I was transfixed and terrified by the sheer obsession and madness that Laura had to put up with. To witness a life being thwarted by a vile creature (and I DON’T care whether she was in need of medical help or not, excuse me!), to see how easily the ones you love can turn against you was petrifying. And once more, I understood that you can trust absolutely no one! No one. When the time comes, your only support is your personal strength. Everyone else will fail you.

Florence Noiville doesn’t resort to drama and hysteria. We enter Laura’s mind and our mirror to C’s threat is her emails to Laura. There is a plethora of information on the syndrome and limited dialogue. It doesn’t take long for the reader to enter the vortex that Laura’s life has become and we anticipate…what? The rage? The revenge? The inevitable? Noiville writes with elegance, sharpness and clarity and even though I would have reacted very differently if I had found myself in Laura’s position, I was won by her doubts and moments of weakness. Women can be abusers too and syndrome or no syndrome, this is a story of absolute psychological violation.

‘’Sartre’s marvellous phrase comes back to me: ‘We are what we do with that which others wish to do with us.’’