Ladivine by Marie NDiaye and Jordan Stump (translator)

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Ladivine by Marie NDiaye and Jordan Stump (translator)

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Ladivine is a hauntingly beautiful novel. NDiaye has produced an eloquent commentary on the nature of shame and guilt and the devastating impact this can have on our most important relationships. Ladivine is also a languid fever dream of a narrative with more than a hint of magic, quite simply I was enchanted from beginning to heartbreaking end.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2017
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-1848666047

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Ladivine centres on the life of Clarisse, a woman tormented by guilt and shame over her abandonment of her mother, and Clarisse's daughter Ladivine, a woman haunted by her mother's choices. As tragedy unfolds the mysteries of Clarisse's life and her determination to escape a past she cannot reconcile with her ambition irreparably alter the lives of her daughter and husband. The sadness at the heart of this book is that Clarisse, driven by shame about her background chooses to create another life and identity and through this deception creates an insurmountable barrier between herself and the rest of the world. When given the opportunity to let down her defences and be honest about who she truly is, Clarisse falls prey to a violent, damaged man and finds herself drawn into an intoxicating web of violence, drunk on truth and freedom to exist without pretence.

I loved Ladivine; NDiaye has created a gorgeous story, full of languid dreamy sequences and vivid, emotive language which perfectly captures the essence of grief and the bewildering uncertainty we feel in relationships with people who conceal the truth from us. The creeping unease Ladivine feels about her mother's relationship with an unpredictable stranger creates further distance between them and when tragedy strikes Ladivine is left to ponder on the nature of her relationship with her mother and also her own inadequacies as a parent. This is really a book of two halves, the first centred on Clarisse and her fractured relationship with her mother, the second exploring Ladivine's attempts to cope with her grief and her own fears.

Ladivine is, at its heart, a book about women; their choices and the way they make sense of, and come to terms with, tragedy, love and loss. It centres on three generations of women, each cursed and alienated in their own way, although through this shroud of loneliness NDiaye has produced a loving testament to those, and indeed all, women and writes with such longing and tenderness that I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion. This book will leave you heartbroken but revived by the power of NDiaye to weave a narrative which speaks universally about the human experience, the crushing weight of shame and the destruction and redemption we find in loving another. This book has been sensitively translated by Jordan Stump and retains the magical flair of NDiaye's distinct writing style and the beautifully quirky eccentricities of French fiction.

For those interested in reading more about alienation, loss and loneliness, you could try The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq.

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Buy Ladivine by Marie NDiaye and Jordan Stump (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ladivine by Marie NDiaye and Jordan Stump (translator) at


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