Original Title: L'Acquittement
Author: Gaétan Soucy, translated by Sheila Fischman
Published: 1997 in French, 1999 in English
About Atonement: Twenty years ago, Louis Bapaume was chased out of the tiny village of Saint-Aldor. Now he's returned to make amends but the weather and a missing girl are making things complicated.
The fundamental disaster that fashions the reality of the world is the inevitable death of those we love. And anyone who claims to believe in the unreality of things need only be reminded of the reality of mourning.
...from page 1
Atonement is an odd and oddly fascinating book. I thought when I finished it that I got the story, that I understood what had happened. Then I thought about it some more and read a couple of reviews (one of which interpreted some aspects of the story in a different way) and now I'm not so sure. I still think I'm right but I'm not sure I'm right.
The story starts off simply enough. On his way to Saint-Aldor, Bapaume's car becomes stuck in the snow and he and his driver are forced to walk to the railway station. There he meets Lieutenant Hurtubise and learns that he won't be able to get to his destination until the next day. He also learns that the daughter of the village's verger is missing and that most of the residents are out searching for her.
It's clear that Bapaume is on a mission. He desperately needs to talk to a former student but what he thinks he needs to make amends for isn't revealed until almost the end of the book. Before and after that revelation, there are twists and surprises (some subtle, some not) and many, many odd moments that nagged at me and often weren't fully explained.
Atonement is a story about the perils of memory and the benefits of forgetfulness. It won't be to everyone's taste because, as I said, it's odd. I liked the book but I think it will take more than one reading to fully understand it.
Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 24 November 2007 from Sheila Fischman's translation.
- Mary Soderstrom, Quill & Quire, January 2000
- “...as carefully put together and as disturbing as a painting by Belgian artist René Magritte.”
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Added 24 November 2007.
Updated 23 August 2013.