Cover Image: Crossed Lines

Crossed Lines

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Member Reviews

Marie Darrieusseq briefly returns, as previously in White and Breathing Underwater, to the sea as backdrop for the story of a Parisian woman who takes a young refugee under her wing. When 40 year-old Rose Goyenetche decides to take a break from her semi-alcoholic husband, frustrating psychologist job and the family’s impending move from Paris to the French countryside, she embarks on a cruise with her two children, Gabriel and Emma. However, what starts off as an attempt to gain perspective on her own life, turns into a questioning of the state of the world, including the worldwide crisis of mass displacement and global warming.

Full review: https://westwordsreviews.wordpress.com/2020/12/22/crossed-lines-marie-darrieussecq/
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Being exhausted, Rose’s mother suggests a Mediterranean cruise for her daughter and the two kids Emma and Gabriel. One night, when she cannot sleep on board, she witnesses the rescue of refugees whose boat collapsed. Between fascination and horror due to the dead she also sees, she makes contact and even offers her son’s cell phone to one of them. Younès and the others disappear as quickly as they have been saved since nothing is meant to disturb the cruisers’ holidays. Back in Paris, Rose cannot forget about the encounter but it is only a couple of months later that she will hear from the young African again and this time, she is not stunned and frozen but eager to provide help herself.

Marie Darieussecq has chosen one of the big issues of European politics of the last five years for her novel. What she masterly contrasts is life and its chances of those who live in Europe and are well-off – which does not secure them from worries and problems – and those who risk everything, even their lives, for a better living or a dream. When these worlds collide, it is interesting to see how people react.

When we meet Rose, her career and family seem to totally wear her out. The cruise which was meant to provide her with some relaxation only offers new stressors and is far from helping her to come down a bit. Only after the family has moved to the countryside and her career has come to an unexpected standstill is she able to re-think the things in her life which really matter. This allows her to take action when Younès is in need. 

The most evident contrast is shown between her kids and the refugees. Even though Emma and Gabriel are not nasty or detestable, they simply behave like ordinary kids, but they appear to be consume-oriented, materialistic and ungrateful for all that is given and offered to them. Bringing Younès into the family seems to fulfil a void that has been there hidden all the time. 

A lot is not said in the novel, we do not learn much about Younès, yet, it is not a story about a poor refugee, he is actually a fighter who does not give up and follows his dream. Much more interestingly is what the encounter sets free in Rose and makes her reassess her life. An interesting read which offers a lot of food for thought.
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‘Those people are crazy—they take children with them.’

Rose and her two children are on a Mediterranean cruise, courtesy of her mother.  Rose is delighted: this cruise provides her with an opportunity to take a break both from her husband and from the house renovations they are undertaking. 

But when the cruise ship goes to the aid of shipwrecked refugees, Rose’s life changes.  Rose gives her son’s mobile phone and some of his clothes to Younès, a young refugee.  She wants to help him.  The phone provides a connection with Younès and a way for Rose to try to help.  But how effectively can Rose help Younès?  And what about her family?

I found this novel intriguing.  What is Younès‘s story?  Where is he from, and why did he leave?  Some of the answers are not obvious.  And, because our view into our view into Younès’s world is through Rose’s eyes, it is incomplete.  For me, that is one of the strengths of this novel.  Not because our picture of Younès is incomplete but because Rose, a middle-aged middle-class white woman can never fully comprehend his situation.  She tries, in her own way, to help.  And Younès tries, in his own way, to make sense of where he is.

Rose seems to have difficulty connecting with her own children: a difficult situation for a child psychologist. In part, by being viewed as a surrogate child, Younès meets some of Rose’s needs.  It is complex and complicated: the relationships that humans have with each other.

This is a novel which left me wondering, after I had finished, what would happen next.  Would Younès find the new beginning he was looking for?  Would Rose find what she needs?  And what about her children?  And who are we, really?  

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.  

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Crossed Lines is a slow burn about a mother who seems quite depressed, or just flat, and going through the motions of her life. She goes off on a cruise with her children and her path crosses with a young refugee from Niger and through a hasty decision or intentional act, Rose brings him into their lives. 

I found the insights into the refugee situation in France very interesting (and sad), and I found compelled to keep reading even though for a lot of the book nothing much happens. The writing is really beautiful at times, my favourite lines being her description of her 15 year old son near the beginning. 

I think I would like to read more from this author as it seems she has a remarkable way of writing about the ordinary as extraordinarily, and vice versa.
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Absolutely stunning. A beautiful story of connection and growth, with poetic construction, well-developed characters, and excellent pacing. I loved it.
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Crossed Lines by Marie Darrieussecq is a topical story about a woman, a wife and mother, who by chance crosses paths with a refugee, Younes, whilst on a cruise with her children and he becomes a constant part of her life. Darrieussecq writes compellingly but I felt the lead, Rose, was not as fully developed as I would have liked. We never know her motivations for being so benevolent, nor where she expects this gesture to go. The translation seems excellent, but, as with all translations, I know something was lost and that potentially could have been poetic lines as the book deals with Rose's inner thoughts extensively, but seems rather pedestrian. I was compelled to read the book but was never surprised by what I read.

Thanks to Net Galley, Marie Darrieussecq and Text Publishing for the galley.
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