A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray is the first book by French author Dominique Barbéris that I have read. In addition to being a perfect autumn book, that melancholy and strange story told through two sisters was unputdownable. I finished it in a sitting.
The style ofBarbéris is straightforward; as a reader, I was immediately drawn into the story on the first page. The story, which stretches from the childhood memories of the two sisters to their current lives, focuses on an uncanny event that Claire Marie told her sister years later. While questioning how well we know our family members, we also examine the impact of city and suburban life on individuals.
A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray was a book that I didn’t want to end, but at the same time, I was wondering what would happen at the end. As I got closer to the end of the book, unfortunately, I guessed that I wouldn’t like the ending at all. I wish the author would surprise me, but she left me with lots of questions and finished the book just as I expected.
Barbéris became one of the authors I want to read again. I saw clearly what a good writer she is in this short book. She manages to create a tension that gradually unsettles people and describes both city and suburban life very well. I recommend it if you are looking for a short novel to read that is set in France. Enjoy!
A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray
A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray: I was in the melancholy state of mind that often comes over me when I go to see my sister, and I think I started by getting a little lost . . .
It’s a Sunday in early September and a woman leaves muggy Paris to visit her sister in the western suburbs of the city. Ville-d’Avray is less than an hour away, but it seems like another world with its secluded streets and set-back houses.
The sisters’ relationship is ambiguous. Jane’s visits to Ville-d’Avray leave her discomfited; for all Claire Marie’s seeming provincial passivity, she knows exactly how to get under Jane’s skin.
As they settle into the torpor of the afternoon, Claire Marie describes a curious encounter from her past. Sundays are when she thinks about life – whether she expected something more from it, and whether she is still waiting for it to begin.
Sharply observed and wryly funny, A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray is a haunting novel about half-shared truths and desires that can never fully be expressed.
‘A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray is a story both simple and familiar but which, in this telling, is beguiling and immensely enjoyable because of the beautifully observed details.’ — Irish Times
‘A study of desire and contentment, time and expectation, this slim novel,A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray, raises alluring questions about paths not taken.’ — Publishers Weekly
Dominique Barbéris (born 1958) is a French novelist, author of literary studies and university professor, specializing in stylistics and writing workshops.
Born in 1958 in Cameroon into a French family of Nantes, her father was a diplomat in Africa. Dominique Barberis studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Sèvres and the University of Sorbonne, after her childhood in Nantes, then in Brussels. She began teaching at a high school in Boulogne-Billancourt before joining an insurance company as head of communications. She later taught in several other schools.
Then she was appointed professor at the University of Paris IV in foreign languages and applied foreign languages at the French language department in which she runs courses and workshops on writing fiction. She published her first novel La Ville with Éditions Arléa in 1996 at the age of 38, before joining Gallimard in 1998 as an author. In 2019, she returned to Arléa, where she published Un dimanche à Ville-d’Avray. She has also published several literary studies and prefaces.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: