This is a dreamlike book in which the characters are unknowable. At the beginning of the book, Odile and Louis are almost thirty-five. They live in a chalet with their three children. The chalet “Sunny Home” was once a children’s camp, but they soon will convert it into a tea room. The sign with the chalet’s name is put in a drawer. They seem to be doing well. The story shifts to when they were almost twenty, incredibly trusting and naive, mixed up with shady characters as they attempt to earn a living. Odile wants to be a singer and is aided by an older man. As Louis leaves the army, the strange character, Brossier supports him and engages him with his boss, Roland de Bejardy.
At this point, the story could go in any direction. There is an element of danger in the assignments they carry out for these characters. The song that Odile sings seems to be a metaphor for the story. The song, La Chanson des Rues, lyrics say “It’s entirely our history; dreams and thwarted love.”
The novel originally published as Une Jeunesse is a very worthwhile read. The author has published over thirty-two works and three films. He won the Nobel Prize in 2014.
New York Review of Books
Patrick Modiano • Damion Searls, Translator