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Small Lives Paperback – 4 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: ARCHIPELAGO BOOKS; Tra edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972869212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972869218
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 1.4 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,129,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By monica on 5 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
I've rounded up from 4 1/2 stars. I'd give it ten stars if I could just to encourage people to read the damned thing. This book has won prizes, this translation won a big prize, Small Lives is well-known in France, it's worth three dozen Martin Amis's, and it seems to be all but unheard-of here.

Because it's been a while since I read it, this review won't have much detail. The book is about eight people living in deeply rural France. There are feuds, disappearances, disappointments. There is a death brought about by a man's refusal to admit to his illiteracy. A priest conducts services in an empty church. Happenings and doings and people about which the outside world knows nothing, cares nothing, but that are the world in these small lives. What Robb has to say about peasant life in The Discovery of France is brought to life here, but most of the events and interactions in the book would not seem unfamiliar to inhabitants of any rural area that's kept many of its old ways.

Small Lives is beautifully written. The people seem real (well, they are to a degree) and the places, both landscape and interiors, are evocative and exquisitely drawn. Michon is able to alter his style and tone seamlessly and appropriately and he always draws the reader along with him.

Because the book is apparently highly autobiographical, some of the lives are of those of Michon's family. It's natural that we should get to know the narrator/Michon, just as it's natural that in so small a settlement each person has a strong connection with the others. Gradually it's he who becomes the main character in the book, and that's the only quibble I have.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bowes TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 July 2010
Format: Paperback
Pierre Michon's Vies minuscules (1984), translated here as Small Lives, is an idiosyncratic book that is hard to categorise. Most frequently described as a novel, it is structured as a series of linked short stories that take the form of biographies of persons whose 'lower-case lives' are linked by a connecting thread. That thread is the author's own life: and in the end Small Lives emerges as an elliptical autobiography and Bildungsroman, as well as a portrait of a certain register of French life over more than a century.

Michon is a very French writer in the lyrical vein. His prose, even in translation, is quite gorgeous and sometimes ecstatic; it's very rare that a book so rewards slow reading. It's a long time since I enjoyed a work of fiction so completely. I can think of nothing in contemporary British writing that combines Michon's clarity of analysis of emotional states with the sheer beauty of his prose.

Michon is all but unknown in the UK. Perhaps this excellent translation of his most highly-regarded book will change things.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
small lives, important book 15 Oct. 2012
By monica - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
4 1/2 stars, though I'd give it 5 if I though it would encourage someone to read it. This book has won prizes, this translation won a big prize, Small Lives is well-known in France, it's worth three dozen Paul Austers, and it seems to be all but unheard-of in the English-speaking world.

Because it's been a while since I read it, this review won't have much detail. The book is about eight people living in deeply rural France. There are feuds, disappearances, disappointments. There is a death brought about by a man's refusal to admit to his illiteracy. A priest conducts services in an empty church. Happenings and doings and people about which the outside world knows nothing, cares nothing, but that are the world in these small lives. What Robb has to say about peasant life in The Discovery of France is brought to life here, but most of the events and interactions in the book would not seem alien to inhabitants of any rural area that's kept many of its old ways.

Small Lives is beautifully written. The people seem real (well, they are to a degree) and the places, both landscape and interiors, are evocative and exquisitely drawn. Michon is able to alter his style and tone seamlessly and appropriately and he always draws the reader along with him.

Because the book is apparently highly autobiographical, some of the lives are of those of Michon's family. It's natural that we should get to know the narrator/Michon, just as it's natural that in so small a settlement each person has a strong connection with the others. Gradually it's he who becomes the main character in the book, and that's the only quibble I have. The change in focus is smooth, the literary and personal reasons for the change are easy to understand, but I would rather have learned more about Father Bandy than Michon's broken love affair, more about Claudette than Michon's addiction, more about the field gone back to the wild than Michon's dead sister. It makes no sense, inasmuch as the writer's life has been eventful and turbulent and the lives of his other subjects were neither, but whilst Michon is always interesting to read, he's most interesting when delineating others' small lives. No doubt that's an idiosyncratic reaction and no doubt other readers will find the book richer and of greater depth when the story-teller becomes the story.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
We're all ultimately a part of something bigger. 4 Sept. 2008
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
We're all ultimately a part of something bigger. "Small Lives" is from acclaimed French author Pierre Michon, deftly translated into English by Jody Gladding and Elizabeth Deshays. The story follows a series of eight lives and how they are all intertwined with each other, Michon himself explores humanity through their lives, and begins to discover something about himself as he writes. Touching and inspiring writing, "Small Lives" is highly recommended to world fiction fans everywhere.
2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Unreadable 4 Aug. 2012
By Kevan b. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this novel on Kindle based on its selection by my book group. I find the book is absolutely unreadable and suggest that potential purchasers sample the novel before committing. If you like books that have fifty word paragraphs and use expressions like "categorical voice" then this might be just the book for you! I believe, unlike the previous reviewer, that the translation is problematic.
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