Book Twenty Eight 2014:
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye
This is the second book I’ve read from this year’s International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award list after Donal Ryan’s incredible The Spinning Heart, and I’ll be honest, I picked it from the list because I’d just been through 2 huge 600+ page monsters. More honesty; I read the description on the back page and was pretty sure I’d be bored senseless, lash through it and that would be that.
You can probably tell from my tone already that’s not what happened…
Three Strong Women is a slightly misleading title as the book takes you through the lives of, primarily, a lawyer returning from France to Africa after a request for help from her estranged father, a kitchen salesman who appears to be undergoing some sort of internal nervous breakdown and a woman’s trek to escape to Europe after her husband dies.
All three are absolutely compelling their own way. The first in its dissection of family, the second with an internal narration of someone quite obviously losing his grip on reality and the third showing the genuine, harrowing reality of life for those on the margins trying to escape to a better life.
She writes beautifully too. Quite idiosyncratically to begin with (at one stage I counted 17 commas in a single, huge sentence!) but once you get past that she’s fluid and poetic and dirt-under-the-fingernails real all at the same time.
I have every intention of reading all of the IMPAC books before the winner is announced, if I read a better one than this I’ll be very, very pleased.