First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, or “Maman,” smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way.
When Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Violaine and her sister long for their mother’s return, yet, once she’s back, Maman’s violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries turn their home into an emotional minefuld. As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, an indelible portrait emerges of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.
With its fierce language, streak of dark humor, and stunning emotional courage, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother’s dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memories close in order to let go, and live.
Here comes the weekend! *Taeyeon’s Weekend starts playing in the background.* Whew, I can’t believe that another work week has culminated. The week passed by so quickly it was only now that I realized that today is the last Friday of March! Wow, time does fly fast. I hope March has been a great month. I also hope that you are ending the week on a high note. For those who had a less than stellar week, I hope you get your mojos back in the coming two days. I hope you use it to rest, relax, reflect, and rejuvenate your manna. Despite the improving COVID19 conditions, a lot still remains uncertain; I can understand where the exasperation is coming from. More importantly, I hope that you are all doing well, in body, mind, and spirit. I can’t wait for this pandemic to end soon.
To close the work week, I am posting a new First Impression Friday update. In commemoration of the celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, I have switched my focus to reading books written by female authors; I used the first two months of the year to catch up on books published in 2021. This journey commenced with Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob, which also served as my transition from my 2021 reading catch-up. Speaking of The Books of Jacob, the book was recently announced as part of the 2022 International Booker Prize Longlist; Tokarczuk won the same award in 2018 for Flights. One of the books that were announced as part of the longlist was Violaine Huisman’s The Book of Mother, my current read.
I have never heard of the French author previously until her book was longlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize. Of the thirteen longlisted books, less The Books of Jacob and Mieko Kawakami’s Heaven, The Book of Mother was the only book readily available from the local bookstore. Apart from its longlisting for the prestigious award, the book was also aligned with this month’s reading theme, hence, why I am reading it ahead of the other books I have. I just started reading the book as I finished Chilean writer Isabel Allende’s latest novel, Violeta, earlier today.
I am not sure if the experience is the same for everyone but our parents are, oftentimes, the first people who have the capacity to both bewilder and enchant us. This shroud of mystery makes us want to unravel them. When we were younger, they are enigmas and no amount of observation can solve the riddle that they are. We think we can get to understand them once we are older. But that is not the case. I, for one, have been wanting to crack the code, perhaps even write about the experience, about my childhood. However, these things, these images, just get stuck in my mind. If there is a book that can somehow represent what I have in mind, it would be The Book of Mother.
Honestly, my initial impression of the book was that it was the author herself who was narrating the story. In the earlier parts, everyone was anonymous, including Violaine’s sister and their father. Imagine my surprise when I read the synopsis prior to writing this update! There was a candid but raw honesty that sprung from the story. It embraced every sentence as the story moved forward. This can only be so if it comes from a special and personal memory or experience. Rather than how I expect the story to pan out, what I am looking forward to is how the story will move me, of how the mother’s story will manifest and intertwine in Violaine’s own. Interestingly, I barely detect any hints of angst or sarcasm from the book. I guess it has to do with the fact that Huisman was writing from the perspective of an adult rather than that of a child.
Originally published in French in 2018, The Book of Mother was Huisman’s debut novel. Like The Books of Jacob, the book was critically acclaimed in Huisman’s native France. The book won several literary awards such as the Prix Françoise Saga and the Prix Marie Claire. After The Books of Jacob and Heaven, it is my third book from the 2022 International Booker Prize longlist. I hope it won’t disappoint. How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into the weekend? I hope you are enjoying it. For now, happy reading, and have a happy weekend!