Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel

September 2016

This is the first book in a loose “trilogy” that includes Brodeck’s Report, which made such a lasting impression on me when I read it several years ago. Whereas Brodeck’s Report is set in a fictional “Alsatian” village after WWII, Grey Souls is set in a nameless French village during and after WWI. The two books have a very similar atmosphere - a fairytale (or nightmare) feeling of timelessness and placelessness, with many characters who are not stereotypes so much as eternal archetypes. This is not a happy book, and yet I very much enjoyed reading it (though I often read with mounting sense of dread - some very bad things happen, and even though you kind of know they’re going to happen, you desperately hope they won’t). The book was expertly translated by Hoyt Rogers. A dark, gripping read.

Further reading…