Double Crossings by Yvette Rocheron

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Double Crossings by Yvette Rocheron

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: When William allows Francois to read the diary he has kept in the two years since they moved to France he can't imagine the tragedy that will unfold. An excellent plot is let down by the writing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 312 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 978-1848761889

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William and Francoise left Leicester and moved to her native France. She settled in the Languedoc easily, immersing herself in the local community and its politics. William struggled – with the language and the alien culture – and his outlet was the diary he kept on his laptop. It was deeply personal, occasionally critical of Francoise and not something which he should have let her read. But he did. When he went away for a week's holiday with their daughter Sophie he allowed Francoise to read all that he had written. It was the week in July 2005 which would bring bombs and terror to London and tragedy to the small town of Forac-Montjoie.

I am in awe of Yvette Rocheron's story-telling abilities. There are many established authors who would be reluctant to attempt to intercut the husband's voice as he tells of the last two years in the South of France with his wife's voice as she narrates the traumatic week in which she reads the diary, but Rocheron pulls this off with aplomb in her debut novel. She covers difficult themes – of immigration (from Europe and Africa), integration and violence with understanding and sympathy and I was particularly impressed by her insight into the marriage of people of different nationalities. There's a keen eye for detail which brings it all to life and I was surprised by how often I thought of Irène Némirovsky as I read. There's a familiar darkness in the tale to be told and like Némirovsky's work this is a book to read twice – once to find out what happens and once to see how it was done.

William and Francoise bloom as characters, as does her lover, Ali Bouchakra – they're real people with strengths and weaknesses but some of the minor characters are less well defined and some I was still having difficulty identifying towards the end of the novel. Such a large cast of characters was perhaps overly ambitious.

When I picked this book up I wondered if it was going to be another story along the lines of A Year in Provence where the incomers always seem to shine through against the backdrop of beautiful countryside and bumbling locals. Even one of my favourite books about people moving to the English countryside isn't entirely immune from this syndrome. Whilst there is humour in Double Crossings there's a gritty reality that's lacking in Peter Mayle's view of France.

The writing I am less certain about. Rocheron is over-fond of lengthy sentences and long paragraphs to the point of making reading uncomfortable. On several occasions I found myself having to reread sentences to see that I had the sense correctly. Some simply cover too much ground and left me with a feeling of back story being packed in as quickly as possible. Ruthless editing would have gone some way towards correcting this and to eliminating the occasional misuse of English.

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

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