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Voice Over Paperback – 3 Apr 2008
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Voice Over by Celine Curiol is a brilliant, beautiful and shocking French novel in the tradition of Houellebecq and Camus.
A young woman works in Paris, at the Gare du Nord. She spends every day talking into a microphone, announcing platforms and timetables, invisible to the world. And then she falls in love with a man who, in turn, loves another. To our heroine, her rival is stunningly beautiful, as beautiful 'as an angel'. So she decides not to pursue the man, rather, she is prepared to wait, alone. That is, until one night a male friend of the 'angel' asks her what she does for a living and without thinking she answers, 'prostitute'. She decides to play her new role to the hilt.See all Product description
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The atmosphere of the novel is tense as you wait for the heroine to be driven over the edge. She works as an announcer at Gar de Nord, a Paris train station, a disembodied voice, blandly relating to the travelers the time and track of departure of their trains, a voice over for them. It is the perfect job for her, detached, unemotional, distant, somewhere where she can be safe.
The heroine hides a traumatic event from her childhood. One gets the sense that this incident has driven her entire life. It is so shameful and embarrassing for her that the one time she told someone about it, her best friend, it spelled the end of their relationship. She could not bear to have contact with her any more.
Her isolation from the world around her becomes extreme by the end of the book. Nonetheless, she achieves a resolution of her conflicts that allows her to continue on with a spark of hope.
Experiencing the heroine's trials and tribulations is at times disturbing, but the author has built a compelling character, more than one dimensional despite her obsession. She is able to convey the heroine's intense compulsion for her `lover' without making her seem distastefully manic. I recommend this novel highly, although readers who are looking for something light and airy will be sorely disappointed.
The central character is both randomly victimized by life and the engineer of her own victimization. She is obsessed with a man who belongs to someone else and virtually stalks him. He appears to have little interest in her, and in her despair and loneliness, she allows - in fact, encourages - exploitation by everyone from a nightclub transsexual who forces her into his act to a politician who mistakes her for a prostitute; an easy mistake, since he attended a dinner party where she claimed to be one. Meanwhile, she fantasizes about the unobtainable man and waits for his love to rescue her. Just when the reader is becoming convinced that she is completely unbalanced, he begins to return her affection.
What's most interesting about this book is how we both observe and share the main character's point of view, adding another layer of "voice over" to the story. We feel the precarious balance she maintains. We fear for her reckless lifestyle and unrealistic pursuit of the man she cannot have, and are embarrassed for her failure to read people correctly and modify her responses accordingly. More than once, her inner voice mirrored my own, causing me to flinch and examine my own thinking and assumptions.
If you like your books action-packed and plot-driven, this one is not for you. But if you want a character study that will make you begin to question and rethink your own narration and interpretation of the events that govern your life, and you enjoy watching a writer do something completely unique with a story, you will be as fascinated by "Voice Over" as I was.
Similar to classic stories such as The Awakening or the Yellow Wallpaper, the novel tells a convincing story of a woman driven almost to insanity by a man. The writing is fresh and original, a story that could be read by future generations in a feminist literature class. However, the lack of chapters, and third person narrative can cause the novel to drag a bit towards the middle. If you are looking for a light read, this novel may not be what you are looking for.