What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us? Read more...
What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us? Set in a small village near Paris, The Balcony follows the inhabitants of a single estate-including a manor and a servants' cottage-over the course of several generations, from the Belle poque to the present day, introducing us to a fascinating cast of characters. A young American au pair develops a crush on her brilliant employer. An ex-courtesan shocks the servants, a Jewish couple in hiding from the Gestapo attract the curiosity of the neighbors, and a housewife begins an affair while renovating her downstairs. Rich and poor, young and old, powerful and persecuted, all of these people are seeking something: meaning, love, a new beginning, or merely survival. Throughout, cross-generational connections and troubled legacies haunt the same spaces, so that the rose garden, the forest pond, and the balcony off the manor's third floor bedroom become silent witnesses to a century of human drama. In her debut, Jane Delury writes with masterful economy and profound wisdom about growing up, growing old, marriage, infidelity, motherhood - in other words, about life - weaving a gorgeous tapestry of relationships, life-altering choices, and fleeting moments across the frame of the twentieth century. A sumptuous narrative of place that burrows deep into individual lives to reveal hidden regrets, resentments, and desires, The Balcony is brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.
- ISBN-13: 9780316554671
- ISBN-10: 0316554677
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: March 2018
- Page Count: 256
- Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
Slices of life in the French countryside
With the exceedingly rare exception of literary genius, a first novel from even the most gifted short story writer is a risky effort, and not always successful. This is why Jane Delury is deserving of recognition: With immense storytelling gifts and spare but luminous prose, she is one of the few writers whose debut will have readers begging for a second novel.
The Balcony unfolds in 10 nonchronological chapters—each of which could be a perfect short story—that introduce a cast of characters spanning several generations from 1890 to 2009. From great loves and fleeting lust to hunger and genocide, each character’s story is connected to a once lavish estate (including a servants’ cottage, a manor and, of course, a balcony) in the French countryside. Families appear, then reappear in later chapters: “A Place in the Country” introduces the Havres, whose descendants and lasting heartbreak thread throughout several other sections. The actions of a World War II resistance hero affect the lives of his grandsons, whose own children continue to bear the weight of choices made before them.
The Balcony beckons readers to abandon preconceptions about generational legacies, motherhood and the ideal, pastoral French village. Benneville, the fictional setting of Delury’s novel, was nearly destroyed by bombs during World War II and, a generation later, is a hardscrabble, industrial exurb of Paris in the midst of gentrification. As Delury describes, it’s far from charming: “This was not exactly the country—Benneville had grown since Jacques was a boy, moving closer to Paris on a wave of concrete.”
The final chapter of The Balcony is written in a dramatically different freeform style, and some readers will wish for a more satisfying ending without Delury’s sudden embrace of a quirky, unconventional structure. However, this is a small concern, and readers are more likely to lament that the novel has come to a close, leaving them longing for more.
Delury is sure to win the hearts of all those who appreciate a smart, elegantly written story.