1 October 2016

Innocence by Pierre Magnan: Harvill 2001

A teenage boy's love affair with an older women

Stripped down, the novel is a love story between a sixteen-year-old boy and a bourgeois women in her early thirties. Set just after the Second World War in a small provincial town in France, the novel is written in the first person by an introverted loner, born of a near destitute working class family. Having left school, he works as a municipal road sweeper. In the opening pages he stumbles on a murder of a local dignitary and become entangled in a web of of love, jealousy and hate.

Despite the dramatic incidents in the opening chapter, the novel is slow-going, and it was only towards the middle of the book that I felt motivated to go on reading. The focus is definitely on the developing feelings of the young man rather than the logic of events, happenings which seem unreal and distant to the plot.

The power of the book lies in the long drawn out love affair between the adolescent and the older woman which is vividly described with great psychological and descriptive sensitivity. The novel is no masterpiece, but deserves a read.

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