A Very Long Engagement

A Very Long Engagement

by Sébastien Japrisot

Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a relent quest to find out whether her fiancé, officially "killed in the line of duty," might still be alive.

Tipped off by a letter from a dying soldier, the shrewd, sardonic, and wonderfully imaginative Mathilde scours the country for information about the men.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Historical
  • Rating: 3.91
  • Pages: 327
  • Publish Date: September 1st 1994 by Plume
  • Isbn10: 0452272971
  • Isbn13: 9780452272972

What People Think about "A Very Long Engagement"

Instead of shooting them by firing squad, they forced them out unarmed and bound between the French and German trenches at night in a bitter snowstorm. She places announcements in newspapers to get more information and hires a detective and the family lawyer to help out.

O carte despre hotrârea unei femei de a afla adevarul cu privire la soarta logodnicului sau disprut pe front.

Fragment of a letter sent from the trenches by a teenage soldier to his girlfriend, on a cold morning in January 1917. For two years, Mathilde lives with her grief, until one day another soldier sends her a letter revealing the cruel, criminal actions of the authorities that led to her fiancées death. Despite being confined to a wheelchair by a childhood accident that cost her the use of her legs, Mathilde is resolved to find out the truth about that fateful day, hoping against all odds that Manech had somehow survived. A moving love story, a terrible account of the horrors of the Great War, a criminal investigation full of surprises, a panoramic view of France before, during and in the aftermath of the war this novel has it all and Japrisot weaves the different threads with a mastery that made one reviewer compare it to the famous epic of Tolstoy War and Peace. Most of all, Mathilde writes letters and visits the relatives of the other four men who shared the fate of Manech on that desperate January morning, sent out into the no-mans land between German and French trenches by their own comrades.

La guerra, l'amore, la morte, la vita.

Oh my, explaining why I have rated this three stars is complicated, just as complicated as the book is. Except that if you have been following the comments I have been making about it at diverse places at GR you will have noted that I have been annoyed, exasperated and at wits' end as I read this book! At the end it occurred to me that perhaps the author is indeed making a point with all this confusion, particularly with the different names and identities. The confusion is intended; it is part of the message to be imparted by the book! This book wonderfully shows the absurdity and horror of war. Mathilde, who is looking for her fiancé, hoping that he has survived WW1, is portrayed very differently in the French movie and in the translated audiobook. (Book two, track 4, of the audiobook) I assume you understand how Bibi was to be softened. Has the book been poorly translated from French? The atmosphere, which I so loved in the original French film, was gone from the audiobook presentation. So I will give the book three stars. You decided if the mystery solving will entice or annoy you. It showed how people were destroyed by the war. Then, at the very end, it also showed how people picked themselves up and made a new life. Having finished the book I feel it merits four stars, but I did complain a lot, so I am giving it three.

With the help of her wealthy father, her chauffeur, and a detective, Mathilde contacts the families of the other four men, as well as other soldiers, to get more information. She receives conflicting accounts of their final days, so we don't know if Manech and the other four men survived until the end of the book. The novel is a mystery, a World War I story, and a love story as it flashes back to Manech's and Mathilde's relationship.

As I read, I thought that each of us has a breaking point. Each has been court-martialed for that offense and sentenced to death. I have read a few books of late where I didn't like any of the characters. I wanted to read this novel in my pursuance of learning/experiencing more about World War One. It served that purpose magnificently, and am more than happy to give it a full 5-stars.

His first novel, Les mal partis was written at the age of 16 and published under his real name (see also author profile of Jean-Baptiste Rossi).