Grey Souls

by Philippe Claudel

This is a deeply mysterious, brooding novel set in a small French village during the First World War. The unnamed narrator, a melancholy soul with secrets of his own to keep, reflects on the investigation of a young girl's murder in 1917. I found this book absorbing in spite of it being hard to follow at times, a grey picture of grey times and distinctly disturbing. Hard to get it out of your mind afterwards.


Let's go back to that morning in 1917 when we left Belle de jour's body beside the frozen canal, along with Judge Mierck and his devoted retinue. This must all seem a terrible muddle, hopping shambolically from one thing to the other, but that's how my life has been, little snippets chopped up and impossible to stitch back together again. To understand someone you have to dig right down to the roots, right down into the cracks, drag it up and let the poison seep out. Get your hands dirty. Nothing disgusts me - I'm just doing my job. Outside, there is darkness, and what can I do in the dark but get the same old sheets out again and darn them a little more?
Translated by Philip Boehm


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