Book Review: Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A bildungsroman Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book with the same tim...

PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge Prompt: A bildungsroman

Other PS 2020 reading prompts this would satisfy: A book with the same time as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it, A book about or by a woman in STEM, A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads

TW: Child abuse, pedophilia, abuse, animal cruelty, animal death, poaching, violent death, misogyny

I was very interested in the synopsis of Real Life, but wasn't totally sure if I'd like the book. I often find that some of the story can be lost in translation with a book not originally written in English, and I often have a hard time connecting with the characters and/or story. This wasn't the case with Real Life. I was hooked almost immediately. Even translated, the book was beautiful and poetic, while also being quite psychologically terrifying and thrilling.

An unknown narrator tells this story of a broken family, one that feeds on violence and hatred. At 8 years old, the narrator and her little brother Sam witness a horrible accident that leaves one dead. Sam is so obviously traumatized by the event that the narrator makes it her life's mission to learn physics and build a time machine that will take her back in time to change her brother's life for the better. The story is told over the course of seven years, in which the narrator strives to protect her brother. 

This book was tough to read. In the first couple of pages, there's a lot of talk of poaching and taxidermy, which made me feel quite ill. I grew up in a home full of taxidermy deer, but this book was different somehow. There is a lot of violence, towards human and animals, and it was truly sickening to read.

But the story being told is so heartbreakingly beautiful, it's hard to turn away from. I was so immersed in the story I didn't even realize the narrator is unnamed until I started writing this review. She just wants to protect her brother, and deep down her mother as well, though she unwillingly finds her pathetic.

Alongside the narrator, we meet many characters who contribute to the success and hope of our unknown protagonist. There are also characters who are more fiercely evil. But each character adds to the depth of the story. Though just over 200 pages and over a course of seven years, the story flows with a prose that creates meaning in every small detail. I'm not one to analyze and examine books, but for someone who enjoys finding deeper meaning, this book is a minefield.

"Stories exist to contain everything that frightens us. That way we can be sure those things won't happen in real life." -Real Life, Adeline Dieudonné

Though haunting, terrifying, and immensely sickening at times, Real Life is a wonderfully told story. While it could've been a much longer piece of work, I think the short length added to the beauty of it. Most of the book is really difficult to get through due to content, but it's not an unrealistic story, which makes it that much harder to stomach. Though it's literary fiction (mixed with psychological thriller), I would very much recommend this to those who enjoyed memoirs such as A Wolf at the Table or The Glass Castle.

Goodreads rating: ★★★★☆

*Thanks so much to World Editions for the review copy of Real Life, and for allowing me to participate in the blog tour. All opinions are my own.

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  1. Like you, I didn't notice the main protaganist wasn't named until I went to review the book as well. Once I realized that, I also noted that not many of the characters actually received given names, but it certainly didn't take away from the tale. I agree it was a great read!

    1. I realize it was done intentionally. Throughout the book, I noticed that many character were given descriptors rather than names. But again, I'm not at all an analyzer when it comes to reading, but I think this would be a great book for an English Lit class!