This well-crafted novel with a curious structure drew me in immediately and kept me intrigued until the end. Narrated in the “matter of fact” voice of four six year olds, all from the same family, the novel starts in the present day and goes backwards through the generations. In this manner history is told in a remarkable way, taking the reader through four different countries and the experience of four different characters in the family.
The story begins with a strange little boy named Sol. He is an exceptionally gifted child but his behaviour is appalling. Watching his parents raise him, makes one wonder about their parenting skills and clues of a mysterious heritage begin to emerge. Sol bears a birthmark which his father, grandmother, and great grandmother also had, and thus the reader begins to think about the fact that more than just a birthmark may have been passed on through the generations. There are secrets, once buried, to be discovered and the novel builds suspense.
Nancy Huston was born Canadian, moved to France, wrote this novel in French, and then translated it back into English. Her novel has won awards in both countries. Though this style of literary novel is not easy to craft, Huston controls it well and gives us a number of unusual insights. This is a great choice for a book club with lots of food for thought and discussion.
Here the author briefly describes the structure of the novel: