Set during and after the First World War, A Very Long Engagement is the tale of a young woman's search for her fiance who she believes might still be alive despite having officially been reported as "killed in the line of duty". Unable to walk since childhood, fearless Mathilde Donnay is undeterred in her quest as she scours the country for information about five wounded French soldiers who were brutally abandoned by their own troops.
A Very Long Engagement is a mystery, a love story, and an extraordinary portrait of life in France before and after the War.
©1991 Editions Noel. Translation Copyright 1993 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
"Riveting....A fierce, elliptical novel that's both a gripping psychological thriller and highly moving meditation on the emotional consequence of war." (The New York Times)
"A classic mystery....Only the best historical fiction can make the journey into a distant time and return with a believable sense of how things really were. That Japrisot's book has done so is a mark of his great talent." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Magical....Part romance, part mystery, part history, part exploration of the dogged pursuit of the improbable, it commands attention from first to last." (The Boston Globe)
"Japrisot's eloquently easy, almost offhand style (nicely translated by Coverdale) makes even throwaway lines remarkable...and his re-creation of the nobility, futility, and horror of trench warfare is harshly beautiful." (Publishers Weekly)
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Interesting premise, likeable & fairly fleshed-out main caracters, but loses the reader along the journey. The author has skill to create some interesting scenarios, but is unable to craft the longing the reader should have felt through Mathilde. Perhaps a fantastic short story.
No, this was a valiant attempt and some parts held my interest.
I enjoyed the narrator. Her voice embodied what I felt Mathilde should sound like. Determined, strong...
Yes, I enjoyed the original love story between the two main characters and liked the interaction between Mathilde and the detective.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story - the plot follows Mathilde, a young french woman as she tries to discover what happened to her missing fiancee in the closing months of World War I.
The narrator was great, although the number of French names and places (pronounced with a flawless and therefore hard-to-follow French accent) that are introduced at the beginning of the book were a bit hard for me to keep up with. I got it figured out eventually, but I had a hard time distinguishing characters at first. The one weakness this audiobook has is one that all suspense audiobooks have - as the mystery evolved, I found myself wanting to go back and re-read certain crucial scenes that happen at the beginning of the book (which is pretty-near impossible with audiobooks).
Regardless, I highly recommend this audiobook!
A very powerful book. Well written. Reflects the impact of war on the soldiers who have to live through it as well as the determination of one women in love who wants to find the truth about what happened to her man.
Narrator Isabel Keating was simply excellent.
A good book if you speak French. The reader speaks beautiful British English and fluent French but the many French names and borrowed French words make a complicated plot impossible to follow. I watched the movie after reading the book, and this helped, but the movie is in French with English subtitles that are plagued by the same problems, a complex plot with many unfamiliar French names. I think it would help the average reader to read the Cliff Notes first. I won?t include the ending, which should be apparent from the name of the movie, but this is a summary of the plot. Five WWI soldiers are sentenced by a French Army court marshal to execution for self-mutilation, i.e., bringing about a gunshot wound to one of their hands in order to buy a ticket home from a war that is miserable, is pointless, and seems never-ending. Each has lost hope. They are sent over the French front line trench into no man?s land to die. One of these five is the fianc? of the main character. The main character then spends the remainder of the book, a very long time, tracking down what happened to her lost fiancee, with the help of a private detective. She does this through newspaper ads, and through the exchange of letters and phone calls and a few short trips. This results in her awareness that the girlfriend of one of the other five convicted self-mutilators is conducting her own similar investigation with a different end in mind, the murder of the French officers who killed her lover, but this murderess is executed by guillotine before she is able to complete her entire mission. These two women meet just before the guillotine ends this second investigation. The main character?s investigation is then concluded joyfully and everyone lives happily ever after. War is hell. I now understand why the French drop their rifles and run rather than fight (French Foreign Legion excluded). They?ve been their and done that and they are tired of war.
I stuck with this through to the end, but there were times when I felt like fast forwarding. It's probably better in the abridged version. The story is good, but it goes on for too long, and the ending seemed somewhat anti-climactic to me.
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