Saturday, May 18, 2024

Forgotten on Sunday

Forgotten on Sunday by Valérie Perrin
Hildegarde Serle (Translator)
6/4/24; 304 pages
Europa Editions

Forgotten on Sunday by Valérie Perrinis a highly recommended story which follows an unlikely friendship, the consequences of undeclared love, and healing the wounds of a broken past. This was Perrin's highly regarded 2015 debut novel and has been translated into English by Hildegarde Serle for the first time.

Justine Neige, 21, is a nursing assistant at the Hydrangeas, a retirement home in the small French town of Milly. As she cares for the residents, she also listens to their stories and often works unpaid overtime to assist them. She is particularly drawn to Hélène Hel, 96, who gradually reveals the story of her life and the tragedy of her lover’s disappearance during WWII. Justine carefully writes down Hélène's story in a blue notebook, which she has promised to give to her grandson, Roman. Justine also tells Hélène about her life.

In her personal life, Justine and her cousin Jules live with her grandparents after the death of both of their parents (their fathers were twins) in a car crash. Justine was 5, Jules 2, when this happened. Her grandmother is suicidal. Her grandfather is taciturn. Now, beyond work, Justine enjoys dancing and frequently spending the night with a man whose name she doesn't bother to learn.

There are mysteries taking place too. An anonymous person is calling the relatives of unvisited nursing home residents, those "forgotten on Sunday," and claiming to be representing the Hydrangeas. The caller is falsely informing them that their relatives living there have died. The police, such as they are in the small town, are investigating. While talking to the police, Justine learns that there were some suspicions behind the death of her and Jules parents.

This is a poetically written, sensitive, elegant, melancholy novel. The narrative moves between the present day events in Justine's life and the past, mainly the story of Hélène. In both timelines secrets, trauma, love (undeclared, and forbidden), revenge, attraction, and friendships are explored. The relationship between Justine and Hélène is essential to the story. Thanks to Europa Editions for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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