I had very few expectations when I first opened The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux (translated from French by Lazer Lederhendler). The summary on the back cover looked a bit jumbled — four different stories, all involving pairs of people that may never meet. The plots appeared a bit confusing and illogical, and I couldn’t figure out how the author was going to make this work as one, singular novel.
But, I was pleasantly surprised.
Leroux is able to intertwine and shift between numerous storylines seamlessly. Her writing is delicate, almost lyrical, yet not overbearing. It’s themes touch on the very foundations of humanity, relationships, and above all else, love. But not in a way the reader expects.
In fact, there was little about The Party Wall that was predictable, which is what made it such a refreshing read. The novel follows the separate stories of four pairs.
Monette and Angie are two young sisters taking a walk, marvelling at the small things they witness along their way, unaware of the shocking end their story may have. Madeleine and Édouard are mother and son, or are they? Madeleine learns at the worst possible moment that she may not be the biological mother of the child she gave birth to. Ariel and Marie are husband and wife in a post-apocalyptic future in which Canada has a labour party and Saskatchewan is a barren wasteland. The power-couple come to a startling realization about their shared past. And finally, Simon and Carmen are siblings that watch as their mother passes away, all the while holding a deep secret about their background that changes the essence of their relationship.
Each story redefines what it means to be a family — the identity that unifies us or breaks us apart. Not all of the stories have happy endings, but each and every one makes the reader stop and think about the universal truths of humanity. Human beings are full of flaws and regrets; yet also the ability to see good in those who can’t see it in themselves.
What truly captivated me was Leroux’s vivid imagery and startling metaphors. The characters were all wonderfully developed and very real. Even the plot line that exists in a futuristic state is all-too revealing of the impending consequences of North American indulgence.
There are very few authors capable of jumping between four separate storylines while still maintaining the readers interest. The passion and truth radiating from this piece of fiction was compelling and genuine, which leads to my final recommendation: The Party Wall is a must-read for 2016-17.
The Party Wall is shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was the winner of both the Governor General’s Literary Awards for translation and the France-Quebec Prize.