There’s a particularly French style of literature—introspective, slightly detached, deeply rational… I’m not quite sure what the right word is to describe it, but I found myself thinking of recent French novels I’ve read—Elegance of the Hedgehog, and O3—when I started Carolyn Moncel’s 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover. The title, of course, evokes memories of the Paul Simon song, though the reasons for leaving might easily boil down to five, as the back of the book explains, “abuse, ambivalence, deception, cheating and death.”
Originally from Chicago, and having moved to Lausanne, Switzerland via Paris, France, the author brings an international flavor to her characters and locations. A novella with chapter titles such as “Set yourself free, Ellery,” and “Maybe vacate, Kate,” examines the broken relationships of a love triangle from multiple points of view, all well-thought-out and convincingly explained. But my favorite story in this collection is a short called “Maybe in Death, Beth,” which recreates a lifetime of love without a hint of rose-colored spectacles or hate. Or maybe I like the dog best…
Varied characters and varied points of view characterize these tales. The reader is carried deep into each character’s thoughts and emotions, and the rough waves of love wash on several different shores as the stories progress. It’s an intriguing collection—not my favorite writing style, but very effective and consistent and well-suited in its intimate detachment to the telling of wounded affection. I’d certainly be interested in reading the author’s other short stories, and her novel, Geneva Nights, coming in fall 2012.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author, all the way from Switzerland, in exchange for my honest review.