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Sunday, 23 March 2014

‘The Stone Boy’ by Sophie Loubiere



 Published by Trapdoor,
10 October 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-8474-4583-4

Having recently read an article bemoaning the lack of French novels that successfully make it through the language barrier (and - incidentally - wondering about the plethora of English language books that do succeed internationally) I was interested to read The Stone Boy, a translated French mystery.

Elsa Preau is a lonely woman. A former headmistress, whose employment ended in unfortunate circumstances, she is estranged from her husband, enduring a strained relationship with her son and a practically non-existent one with his wife and son. She spends her time observing the comings and goings in the neighbourhood. Her interest is piqued when she notices a local family with three children, only two of whom are enrolled in school. Imagining all kinds of abusive family dynamics, she is determined to get to the bottom of the situation.

As the reader learns more about Elsa's mental state, and history, the truth becomes ever more precarious and her motives questionable. Distraught that no one - not her son, the police or social services - will listen to her, Elsa takes matters into her own hands, with devastating consequences.

A beautiful narrative, and stylistically fascinating, the author utilises dialogue, monologue and correspondence to move the denouement along. I had breezed through the first third of the tale without even realising it. The extensive scene setting races through several decades - from 1946 to 2009, when the mystery appears to the reader for the first time.

Poignant, moving and tragic in many ways, abuse and mental illness dominate the denouement and leave a sad, empty space in the reader's heart at the conclusion.
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Reviewer: Joanna Leigh

Sophie Loubiere was born 10 December 1966. She is the author of five novels including The Stone Boy, for which she won several awards, including the French Prix Lion Noir for crime writing in 2011.

 

Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.





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