A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray

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Title: A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray (original title: Un dimanche à Ville-d’Avray)

Writer: Dominique Barbéris (tr. by John Cullen)

Publishing House: Other Press

Date of Publication: April 27th 2021 (first published 2019)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Some of the houses in the neighbourhood I passed through were still closed up – proof that their owners hadn’t yet returned from summer vacation – but there were flowers in the gardens. Flowers blooming in untended gardens, all by themselves. You could sense everywhere, much more than in Paris, the sort of languid stretching and immobility characteristic of plants in the fall. There were fewer red roses than pale -pink ones – red roses, despite their more pronounced colour and their stronger scent, don’t last as long. They seem to wear themselves out.

 Maybe it’s the colour that wears out the roses.’’

Two sisters meet in a garden in Ville- d’Avray on a Sunday afternoon. Dusk is falling, another summer is ending, another autumn is getting ready to arrive. In the peace and quiet shared by the two women, the revelation of Claire Marie’s relationship with a mysterious man acquires a different meaning than we would normally expect. Even though it ended years ago, we are taken in the heart of a brief journey that is all about discovery and honesty. After all, this is what Sundays are made of…

‘’Life’s like that: you make a valiant effort to carry your dreams, yours or those of others.’’

‘’On Sundays you think about life.’’

There is a strange ‘’feeling’’ on a Sunday afternoon. Personally, I’ve never liked Sundays. Whether bleak or sad, uncertain or indifferent, I feel as if Sundays have always passed me by. In this novel – which is more beautiful than any words can describe – Dominique Barbéris perfectly captures the uncertainty and confessional aura of a Sunday afternoon in Ville- d’Avray, in the suburbs of Paris. There are the melancholic echoes of Chekhov, the bleakness of the British moors, Jane Eyre’s devotion and adventurous spirit. There are afternoons reminiscing of a troubled childhood in the shadow of an insufferable mother who worshipped bloody homework. Otherwise, ‘’you’ll end up being a cashier.’’ There is rain and windows. Lights seen through the people’s houses. There is silence. The promise and threat hidden in the dusk. There is the strong bond between sisters and the mystery of an uncertain relationship with a man you know nothing about.

The hazy late-season atmosphere is brilliantly depicted. I could feel the autumnal change while I was reading in the heart of April. It made me even more nostalgic of those beautiful early-fall afternoons. And it is peculiar but I saw traces of myself in the character of Claire Marie. Her habit of observing other people’s houses, her staring out of the window, her fascination with lamps during dusk, her long walks, her silence.

I wanted to live inside this book. I cannot praise it enough. The beauty, the nostalgia, the melancholy, the quiet, the simplicity and elegance make you grateful for being alive and blessed to read such literary marvels, such works that are made of whatever our souls are made of.

‘’On the avenue that bordered the park, the streetlamps would come on one by one; we liked the way those lights, magnified by the foggy mist, shone in the night; we could feel their chilly poetry, but on the way back we’d walk ‘’as though we were walking on eggshells’’, with a strange pang in our hearts. We knew what the rest of the evening would be like.’’

Many thanks to Other Press and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.