One of these novels is narrated by a woman in a coma; the other, an unborn baby, child of warring parents. Meet “romance” and “anti-romance”.
“Nutshell” is McEwan’s 16th book and “Je Suis La” is Avit’s first book, so it’s unsurprising that his characters are “rounder” (more fleshed out?). In “Nutshell,” they are an estranged husband and wife, and the husband’s drudge of a brother, who has entwined himself as the wife’s lover.The couple’s former, dilapidated home-the husband’s family’s homestead-is nearly a character itself in the book, with its trash-strewn hallways and knobbly banisters.
Somehow this all works, though it probably wouldn’t in lesser hands.This baby is not just a kicker; as a narrator he is thoughtful, observant and FUNNY! Who needs to think about themes with such clever narration. This novel is hilarious.
In “I’m Still Here,” (“Je Suis La” in the original French) by Clelie Avit, Elsa, one of the narrators, has suffered a mountain climbing accident and has been in a coma for five months. While her family is grappling with the possibility of turning off her life support, she has slowly been regaining consciousness. Only problem: no one is aware of this as she hasn’t gained the ability to talk or move her muscles.
Thibault, the other narrator (great French name…) stumbles into her room after bringing his mother to visit his brother in the hospital. His brother has been hospitalized as the result of an auto accident (the brother was driving drunk; two young women were killed.) Thibault begins to fall for Elsa, all the while refusing to visit the brother, who’s responsible for two deaths. So, a clever narrative device, a woman who is gradually coming to life, and friends who reveal more about the woman through dialogue. McEwan’s been at it longer and is more skillful, but this is Avit’s first book…well done.