TITLE: These Dividing Walls
AUTHOR: Fran Cooper
TRIGGER WARNING: racial hate, mentions of attacks, acts of violence against minorities
WHERE DID I RECEIVE THIS?: HachetteNZ sent this to me in exchange for an honest review!
“Don’t be a caged bird” the old man says to the sparrow hopping along his wrinkled, liver-spotted hand. “Learnt that a long time ago”
In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building.
Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers.
Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief.
But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37…
Wow, what a book. Now I know, that review isn’t very high and that’s because like a lot of people, I need a good plot and characters to love a book, and this book was really lacking in plot, and there were a few characters I wasn’t as interested in. But, this book impacted me and made me shed a tear at saying goodbye to this sweet, whimsical apartment building.
These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper is really a character study set in modern France, it follows the lives of the residents in building 37 in a shabby Parisian suburb. There are around 10 main characters in my opinion, and around 5 different small plot lines going on and this book made me feel like I was sitting in the court yard, watching their stories go by. A young English man moves in to deal with his loss. A mother is falling apart at the seams. An old man, watches hate rise against his religion again. A young Muslim couple move in & a man lies to his wife so completely, that she no longer knows who he is. all of this, is set on the political backdrop of a modern France, with people protesting immigrants and the loss of jobs.
My favourite part about this book is the writing, it transports you to France so effortlessly and makes you feel like you are watching this world unfold before your eyes. Fran interweaves tales of these characters lives like a story that she has been told by a friend, it seems so human and normal in the way they act and live that it does make this an easy and fast read.
With such a large cast of characters, and changing perspectives and plots it’s not hard to have a favourite character or someone you become more invested in and that’s what happened to me. I found myself interested in the lives of Cesar & Chantel as opposed to Edward & Frederique. Yet I also found interest in Ana and her children. With this wide variety of characters, there is little doubt that you’ll find one of them to love.
Another point I really loved was the political side of this. Cesar gets mixed up with some far right people and near the end of the book, is participating in attacking buildings owned by Muslims and you can’t help but feel sick, at the idea of your neighbor being apart of this, but also, at the idea that someone so normal, so outwardly placid could be so hateful. But to counter this we do have a few far left characters who constantly remind us how wrong it is to attack others like this, and it is reassuring in a sense to be reminded that these people do exist in both fiction, and real life.
Overall, if you enjoy character driven books, books with hints of truth & books that explore normal lives, I think These Dividing Walls is for you.
These Dividing Walls released on the 16th of May!
Until Next Time,