I’m grateful to have stumbled onto Lydie Salvayre’s The Company of Ghosts (Dalkey Archive). I remember reading something about it a while back; when I saw it in a bookstore recently, I picked it up on a whim. Actually, reading the introduction helped put it over the top, which is unusual in the extreme; introductions don’t usually carry that much weight.
What a great read. I’m a little less than halfway through, and only get scraps of time here and there to read it, what with one daughter changing schools, the other starting daycare, looking for new employment, juggling it all, and so on. This has been a good book for this kind of situation – there’s not a lot of movement, events-wise: a daughter and mother are set upon by a process server (in France. It’s all in France) who impassively begins cataloging their possessions for seizure. The mother is deeply traumatized and the past and the present switch places on her at the snap of a finger, and so she recounts memories of past atrocities against her family, shouting that the process server is someone sent from the past to get her, while the daughter tries to contain her mother’s emotions, shares her own experiences, and talks the ear off of the process-server. There’s some repetition in the way the characters move in and out of sequences in the story – the same thing happening, with the same accusations, bolstered by different memories from the mother – her brother being beaten, her mother learning about the world from sitting in a cafe. The daughter muses on the positive and negative effects of television on her mother while also bemoaning the lack of truly passionate kisses on the shows.
All in all it’s wonderful, the writing is excellent and while you can’t really tell, the cover’s very nice (it matters) with lower case, ghostly letters placed around the capital letters of the title. If Dalkey had published this book, I’d probably have read it by now.