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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grey Souls. Philippe Claudel
The story revolves around the murder of a local young girl in a small French village, near the front line, during the First World War. The story is told in retrospect by the original investigator of the murder case. As the events of the past are re-told he attempts to reconcile his own conduct during the investigation of the case and the affect the verdict had on his own...
Published on 9 Jun 2010 by N. A. Spencer

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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
I found this novel well written and very engaging. The very end of the book, however, I found a complete surprise, upsetting and spoiled my experience of reading it.
Published on 15 Sep 2006 by Kevin


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grey Souls. Philippe Claudel, 9 Jun 2010
By 
N. A. Spencer - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grey Souls (Paperback)
The story revolves around the murder of a local young girl in a small French village, near the front line, during the First World War. The story is told in retrospect by the original investigator of the murder case. As the events of the past are re-told he attempts to reconcile his own conduct during the investigation of the case and the affect the verdict had on his own life. There are plenty of twists throughout the book as the investigator recollects his life throughout this turbulent period and also of those around him. There are some poignant episodes within the story and the character portrayal is extremely good. I really enjoyed Grey Souls and found it to be a thought provoking book. I would willingly recommend it.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars little gem, 24 July 2005
This review is from: Grey Souls (Hardcover)
A well-polished little diamond of a novel. Set in a small French town during World War 1 a detective looks back on his part in the investigation of the murder of an angelic young girl. Especially considering this is translated from the original French - it is incredibly well-written. There doesn't seem to be a wasted word and the overall effect is a haunting melancholy that stays with you well after you've finished reading.
Basically, a stunning piece of writing that is my favourite read of recent years. Tres, tres Bon!!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting story brilliantly told...., 3 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Grey Souls (Hardcover)
I've had a proof of this book sitting on my bookshelf for months. Yesterday, suffering literary indigestion from too many huge, overlong, inflated novels I picked it up. The cover doesn't exactly do much to encourage this, but the first paragraph is enough to draw you in...and I read it in two sittings, on one day. Amazing stuff...economical, moving, full of wonderful twists and surprises, and written in such a way that the whole life and society of this place is revealed. The First World War is there, but not as you've ever read about it before. The character of our narrator and the Procureur are both extraordinary, but every tiny part is fleshed out. Read this book. It will stay with you for ever. I can't believe there isn't some French director making a movie of it as I write...it'll be good, but nothing like the novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nihilististic, 9 Aug 2011
This review is from: Grey Souls (Hardcover)
From the beginning to the end the gloom remains unrelieved. The narrative voice is world-sick and its owner is hanging by a thread over the abyss.Set against the genocide of The Great War a murder story unfolds;an innocent is slaughtered as so many, albeit older, innocents are. Snobbery, cruelty and brutality prevent the truth unfolding; despair and dissolution compete.Life is portrayed as a dark journey to nowhere in particular.

The style is sparse and striking in the way that Hemingway's is; the author has distilled language to produce a memorable text.It makes Jude The Obscure read like a laugh-out-loud romp.

It's a fine book but life-enhancing it isn't.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and beautiful book, 30 May 2011
This review is from: Grey Souls (Hardcover)
A young girl is found murdered close to a northern French village during the First World War. The detective assigned to the case looks back, years later at the investigation and his own life.

Though the framework is that of a detective story with a murder, suspects and a detective it is really much more. The case is told in retrospect by the detective questioning his conducts and examining how the investigation meshed with his personal concerns. It is a tragic story from many points of view, not only the sad death of the victim but other equally poignant losses. The war is there as a distant rumble, ever present and influencing matters but never taking centre stage.

The translation reads very fluently and seems to capture the essence of the story.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life (and Death) is Suffering, 18 May 2009
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Grey Souls (Paperback)
I've always found the idea of crime in the midst of a war rather interesting, and so this French novel about a murder during World War I caught my eye. I suppose I expected some kind of literary thriller, and while there is indeed a strong murder mystery plot, the book is really an extended meditation on death.

Death is everywhere in this book, as the narrator reflects on the horrific murder of a young girl in the small village he lived in twenty years earlier, in 1917. He was a policeman, but far from being deeply involved in the investigation, was instead relegated to the sidelines by the imperious judge who takes over the case. This murder was soon followed by the apparent suicide of a newly arrived young woman who had taken the schoolteacher's post. In the wake of this comes a third tragic death -- one which forever changes the policeman. Even as the first World War grinds up men by the thousands just over the hill from the town and pollutes its streets with mangled wounded, it's this trio of dead females that haunts the policeman. (Nonetheless, there are plenty of echoes of the war in how the judge and his strange sidekick "investigate" the murder, and it's hard not to think of Renoir's great film, Grand Illusion, while reading.)

The book slowly (probably too slowly for some) and very lyrically meanders back and forth over the last twenty years, as the policeman recounts his attempt to unravel the mystery of the little girl's murder while also slowly revealing the secrets of the other two women's deaths. During the telling, the deaths of numerous supporting characters over the intervening two decades are also carefully noted. (I think there are something like 15-20 deaths mentioned in the story.) All of which makes for some beautifully written, but melancholy reading. (The translation is quite amazing, with a lovely turn of phrase or epigramatic expression on almost every page.) The secret of the third death, and why it damaged the policeman, is heavily foreshadowed early on, but only fully explained about 2/3 of the way in. The secret of the suicide is also explained well before the end. However, the bits and pieces of the little girl's murder are put together over time, as information is very carefully meted out in small tidbits at just the right moments. Then, at the very end, the author yanks the carpet out from under the story with a carefully constructed twist.

This only further reinforces the book's overall bleak tone, as one is left with sense that trying to make sense of death is a meaningless endeavor, bound to end in disappointment.

Note: The book was made into a film in 2005 with the same (French) title.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite writing, 7 Aug 2007
This review is from: Grey Souls (Paperback)
This is the story of an investigator looking back at the people and circumstances involved in his investigation of the murder of a ten-year-old girl during the first World War.
It's certain not a plot-driven novel, but rather meanders through the narrator's memories.
It's not a long book, but is hard to put down beacuse of the equisite use of language and the compelling characters. There's a sparseness here that is masterful. Furthermore one feels as a spectator to these melancholy events.

It's not the kind of book you'd want to read all the time, but is a sobering and thought-provoking novel which is a showcase of a writer's/ translator's craft.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Grey Soul of Europe, 4 Sep 2006
This review is from: Grey Souls (Hardcover)
This novel, written about a hundred years after the event (some of the happenings and dates there are from the 1890's although the story takes place a little later), by a great writer, son of an old continent, is a reflection of the Grey Soul of Europe now, in 2006, a tired old continent, tired of wars, tired of philosophy, observing the time and flowing with it doing nothing, like one of the protagonists (end of chapter 4)who eventually was so caught up with time, loving it, that sometimes he could watch it pass on without doing nothing, just sit behind a window on a wicker chair and watch.

This is a sad book that does not provide the energy of joy nor the spirit to fight and should not be read by melancholic people.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a whodunnit, 27 Mar 2007
This review is from: Grey Souls (Paperback)
Don't read this book if you are looking for a thriller. It certainly isn't that. It's something much more etherial. Its subject is death - shocking at times, but always wrapped in a dreamlike haze. It's morbidly depressing, but what made me keep turning the pages was the quality of the writing - almost like a long poem. The narrative takes priority over characterisation and plot. This makes it refreshingly different - ever so modern, yet weirdly old-fashioned at the same time.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incroyable, 2 Oct 2007
This review is from: Grey Souls (Paperback)
One of the best books I've ever read. The monochrome tone is lit all too briefly by the appearance of Mademoiselle Verhaeren is masterful. Some of our British crime writers could take a leaf out of this book - utterly original and so, so French.
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Grey Souls
Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel (Hardcover - 28 April 2005)
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