Book Review: Tom is Dead, by Marie Darrieussecq
Posted on August 19th, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
No plot spoilers here … but then, if you are reading for plot, best look elsewhere. This is a quiet but trenchant meditation on the death of a loved one; in this case, the four year old son of the narrator, a woman whose name we never learn. Her personal circumstances are revealed to us bit by bit, filtered through her complex grief, so that reading the book feels as if we are intruding on someone’s private journals or personal letters to a close friend. The writing parallels the narrator’s emotional experience in its tone, vacillating between numbness, detachment, guilt, longing, rage, and raw anguish. I felt as if I were having to hold on tight through this, sensing but never knowing why the child died, right up to the denouement, where the circumstances of the boy’s death are described in words as ordinary and spare as his life.
This was my introduction to Marie Darrieussecq and I came away from it wanting to read more of her work. Tom is Dead is a beautiful book. I couldn’t put it down, by which I mean that I read the first few pages initially, and then went out for a few hours, after which I returned home and read straight through until 5.00 a.m. My university French abandoned me some time ago, so I had to read an English translation by Lia Hills, but I think it is a worthy one. Best read with a bottle of red, I think!