|The People in the Photo|
My review today is for The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern. This is a French novel translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz and brought to the English language by Gallic Books, who kindly sent me a copy to read and review.
Knowing nothing about her Mother, who died when she was three, the main character Hélène Hivert turns detective and takes out an advert in a newspaper in an attempt to find some information. Her only link to her Mother is a photograph taken in Interlaken in 1971, but she has no idea who the two men pictured with her are. Until, that is, she is contacted by Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent and the son of one of the men in the photograph.
A correspondence between the two of them begins, formally by letter at first and then as they grow comfortable with each other they chat and email more frequently and informally. It is obvious that a relationship is growing, but with so many unanswered questions from their ‘shared’ past they must proceed with caution. Her investigation brings as many questions as it gives answers and as every new bit of information is found and shared between them, their lives (past and present) change forever. Many of their family friends and relatives have died or are too old and infirm to be quizzed, but how much do Hélène and Stéphane really want to know? Has Hélène left it too late to find out the truth about her past? Will knowing give her closure and will that bring them together or drive them apart?
This is a very different book to my normal reads, but has an intriguing plot and as it is written as a collection of letters and emails is very easy to read. It is engaging and page turning as you are drawn into both the investigation into the past, but also in wanting to find out how their relationship is coping with what is uncovered. I loved how the tones of the correspondence changed throughout the book as their relationship evolves. I will probably read this book again as I’m sure there will be bits I missed first time around.