Just Like Tomorrow by Faïza Guène

How Can Life Be So Bad When You’re Living in PARADISE?

Kiffe kiffeI came across Faïza Guène’s  Kiffe kiffe demain translated as Just Like Tomorrow by Sarah Ardizzone, a french contemporary novel for young adults, via a wonderful blog A Year of Reading the World that is being turned into a book*.

Ann Morgan, inspired by the arrival of the multitude of athletes who came to London for the Olympics, decided to read a book from every one of 196 independent countries.

Each country presented a challenge, with only 3% of books in the UK being translated, she had to call on the help of her network and followers to find an English translation for many locations.

Faïza Guène

Faïza Guène

Faïza Guène is a young screenwriter who, after being involved in a local community project, began directing her own films. Born in France of Algerian parents, and growing up in a northern suburb of Paris, she writes from the heart of a challenging suburb, in a part of the city that few from the outside know about and about which little is written in literature.

Fifteen-year-old Doria lives alone with her illiterate mother, abandoned by a father who is seeking a younger, more fertile wife in his birthplace, Morocco. The story follows Doria’s unadulterated thoughts, which for most of the narrative are quietly despondent yet noisy with attitude. She is not prone to drama, although she observes it around her, as if from within a bubble and provides a running commentary on everything in her mind,and on the page.

Peppered with teenage slang, suburban Franco-Arabic dialect, the voice is unique and easily conjures an image of what life must be like for Doria, as she waits to be thrown out of school and pushed into a career she has no desire for. Her low expectations of life make the small gains she and her mother make all the more pronounced and the humour all the funnier.

What Mum really likes watching on telly in the evenings is the weather forecast. Specially when it’s that presenter with brown hair, the one who tried out for the musical The Birdcage but didn’t get it because he was over the top…So there he was, talking about this huge cyclone in the Caribbean, and it was like oh my days, this crazy thing getting ready to do loads of damage. Franky, this hurricane was called. Mum said she thought the western obsession with giving names to natural disasters was totally stupid. I like it when Mum and me get a chance to have deep and meaningful conversations.

It is a slice of life, coming of age story, of a second generation teenage immigrant living her life far from the images of the city of Paris that come to mind for most of us. It is a book that has been widely translated into other languages and offers a unique insight into teenage life for those on the fringe and an excellent alternative to the more well-known French literature out there.

*Reading the World: Postcards from my Bookshelf will be published by Harvill Secker in 2015.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I read a wonderful review of The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness over at Annabel’s House of Books and I asked if it was YA(Young Adult) fiction, a genre I admit to being a little reluctant to read, not because there aren’t excellent books, but because part of the joy for me in reading is to be exposed to and learn, uncommon new words, adding to my private lexicon, words that would seem pretentious in teen fiction.

The_Crane_Wife__pentaptych_by_Crooty

There are always exceptions however, recently I loved Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse The Wild Book and when a book sounds like it has qualities that intrigue me, a review by any blogger on my reading wavelength is sufficient for it to lodge in my mind and be called off a shelf when I spot it.  Annabel replied telling me that this was Ness’ first adult novel and recommended his YA trilogy Chaos Walking for a thought-provoking dystopian adventure and described A Monster Calls as phenomenal. That one lodged itself immediately in my mind.

On Saturday I went looking for the original version (French) of Ru by Kim Thuy at the library after reading an excellent interview by BookDragon only to discover that all copies were out.

A Monster CallsNaturally I couldn’t leave without a quick glance at the English language bookshelves and there it was, the beautiful hardback, fully illustrated copy of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. I picked it up and headed for the exit, so as not to be tempted by more, since I have too much to read already, but as I left, my eye caught the display shelf where I spotted Quelques Minutes Apres Minuit, a familiar book cover in the same colours, yes, the same book with its French title and cover. As you can see, I brought them both home.

The idea for A Monster Calls came from the writer Siobhan Dowd, who was unable to complete the book tragically due to a terminal illness. Patrick Ness was asked to write the story, a remarkable challenge that somehow he managed to achieve without, ironically, the shadow of expectation or any other writerly monster hanging over or haunting him.

Conor O’Malley is thirteen-years-old and lives with his mother; his parents are divorced and his father remarried and now lives in America with his wife and baby daughter. Conor’s mother is in the latter stages of a terminal illness and Conor is coping with doing more things on his own, while becoming distant from his school-friends and attracting the attention of a school bully. On top of all this, his life is complicated by the nightly appearance of a tree monster, who doesn’t really scare him, as he tells it, he’s seen worse.

The monster wants something from him and Conor can’t or won’t offer it and yet he won’t be left alone until he does.

It is as if the extraordinary circumstance that brought this book about, invoked something magical that inspired Patrick Ness beyond what he might otherwise be capable of, because the book transcends the usual storytelling and creates a dialogue someplace between a brutal reality that is, and the unwanted but unstoppable future that will be, where an apparition takes on the role of enticing the traumatised teenager towards that excruciating path he must follow.

The entrance to the wonderful Mejanes Library in Aix-en-Provence

The entrance to the wonderful Mejanes Library in Aix-en-Provence

It is a breathtakingly raw journey that the author maps out, navigated with the extraordinary insight that only a vivid, courageous and mature imagination could channel.

It will leave you in awe.

Stunned.

A rare 5 stars from me.

Recommended for all ages.