Monday, 20 June 2016

The Life Of Elves by Muriel Barbery

The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery
Translated by Alison Anderson. Published in English in May 2016 by Gallic Books. I am not sure when or if a French edition was published as I could only track down the English translation. This seems to have first been published by Europa Editions in February 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Offered a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Life Of Elves is very different to Barbery's previous novels such as The Elegance Of The Hedgehog which I have noticed upset other reviewers. I couldn't actually remember much about the former book, other than being very impressed by it, and I think it helped me not to have any preconceptions.

Set in a timeless France and Italy, the story revolves around the mystical connection between two young girls. Maria was abandoned in a French village as a baby, the only clue to her origins being two Spanish words embroidered onto her wraps. Clara was brought up in Italy and finds herself a child prodigy pianist. I loved Barbery's descriptions of music and the evocations of sound. Clara's flights of imagination at these points, seeing mountains and streams or the stone cages that are cities intricately woven through the melodies she plays, are superbly written and some of the most visionary prose passages I have ever read. This alone is the reason why I would urge people to buy The Life Of Elves.

However, alongside such beauty also comes frustration as, even after finishing it, I still don't really know what this book is about. Supernatural beings in the form of Elves have come into the human world and Maria's village comes under attack, but I never understood why or even really who by. Perhaps experienced readers of fantasy novels would find the overriding story ar so obvious that Barbery felt she didn't need to make it explicit. Personally, at the time, I was happy to simply be swept along in the whirl of words, but now I am trying to write a review I think it would have been nice to have known exactly what was going on!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Muriel Barbery / Fantasy / Books from France

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