Wednesday, 5 July 2017

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett ( author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Man with the Horn, The Land Beyond Goodbye, and Don’t Look Down.

What We Thought: Number 37 sits at the meeting of two streets in Paris’s 5th Arrondisement. The apartment block houses a variety of tenants including Edward, a young Englishman who is visiting his French girlfriend Emilie, who is currently away. Her aunt, Frederique, lives in another part of the block. Chantal and Cesar live on a lower floor and Anais lives on the second floor with her husband and children. The caretakers, the Marins live on the ground floor where Mme Marin has a hairdressing salon.

Frederique runs a hidden bookshop at the back of the inner courtyard. She always says hello to Josef, a homeless man who camps in a doorway across the street and lends him her newspapers. She seems to know his business as he does hers. Edward is intrigued by this.

New tenants, Muslims, move in. The residents are divided in their opinions; some like Mme Duval, being antagonistic and some are supportive; others, like Cesar, get caught up in things they did not intend. Against this background and the heat of a Paris summer secrets begin to be revealed, attitudes displayed and events unfold on the larger world stage.

An attack at Notre-Dame means all public buildings have to be evacuated, including the Louvre while Edward is there. Violence erupts and there is trouble on the streets. The tenants of No.37 cannot avoid being involved. People are hurt, passions run high and the new Muslim tenants are targeted. Meanwhile an affaire blossoms.

Will Chantal and Cesar ever recover from their estrangement? Will Anais find the strength to go on? Will Mme Duval leave the new tenants alone to get on with their lives? And will Edward finally realise where he needs to be?

This novel is a fascinating account of a varied cast of people, all with their own problems and destinies. It is well written and a very enjoyable read.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Plenty of different characters and plot strands.

Avoid if you dislike: A small amount of graphic violence.

Ideal accompaniments: Chilled gin and lime in a tall glass to roll across your brow.

Genre: General/Literary Fiction

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