A Very Long Engagement
by Sebastien Japrisot

Rating: D+

Set during and after World War I, Mathilde Donnay is desperate to learn the fate of her fiance after he was sentenced to death and tossed into no-man’s-land during one of the bloody battles of the war. Her search leads her to find the wives and families of four other men who were condemned with him on that same night, and through them her quest travels down paths she never expected it to go. Mathilde is unwilling to give up hope, because she is convinced that somehow her love was able to make it through that night, alive.

I forced myself to finish this book. The writing was so weird and confusing, and while some of that is probably because of the translation from French to English, I know that can’t be the only reason. The story is mostly told in present tense, but there are times when it just switches tense and time period with no formal breaks. And sometimes when people would talk there would be no quotations, which just made it that much worse to read. A majority of the chapters consist of letters people write to Mathilde. Maybe it’s because I don’t speak French and therefore all the names of people and places get mixed up in my head, but for the life of me I couldn’t keep any of the characters’ names straight. It’s not fun reading a book when I have to look back every few pages to remind myself who a person is.

I picked up this book because I’ve seen the movie. I don’t know how or when I saw the movie, mostly because it’s in French and I don’t like watching films with subtitles, but I know I saw it somewhere. This was one of those books where I wanted to compare the two, and I have to say anyone who’s interested should just forget the book. Go watch the movie. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but forgo the book and just watch the movie. It’ll save you some time and a headache.

-Review by C.M.