To have your father shot when you are a small child is to lack a sense of him as a person. Even if you can remember a man who swung you up in his arms, who wore fleshy leather clothes and pressed you to cold prickling cheeks smelling of the night and cigarettes, or you learn him from a photograph smiling out of his wedding to your mother…you cannot talk to him, not in any way that he can answer you.
The streets of Paris are inhabited by beautiful, interesting people – but these people are as troubled as any of us. Fanny works in an antiquarian bookshop and is deeply in love with her builder husband, but they are unable to fall pregnant. Luc, who owns the bookshop, thinks of his shop as a resting place for volumes nobody can ever really own, making his business less commercially successfully than it could be. His partner, Julien, nurses sick and dying children. And Jean- Marie is a famous professor of Philosophy who allows his adoring female students to satisfy his libertarianist leanings.
Valley of Grace is a fine literary novel which interweaves the differing stories of the characters, with the themes of birth and babies running through each story. However, as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that it is more than just a theme which is common – with the characters’ lives also overlapping and coming increasingly together.
This is a tale of shocks and surprises, of dark and light, of birth and death, with characters and relationships blossoming while others fall apart. Set in Paris, it is an intriguing and sometimes disturbing read which is ultimately satisfying.
Valley of Grace, by Marion Halligan
Allen & Unwin, 2009
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