Our house had four bedrooms. There was mine, my little brother Sam’s room, that of my parents, and the one with the carcasses.“Real Life” by Adeline Dieudonné
I think I came across “Real Life” by Adeline Dieudonné through the SRF Literaturclub, a literary discussion round in German that I enjoy on YouTube. Dieudonné’s novel was discussed and I must have liked a page associated with the show or the book on Facebook because “Real Life” started to be recommended to my mother who asked me about it. She bought it first. Devoured it. Told me to get it, that it was just up my alley. I did, and after having read the first paragraph I was hooked. I was almost halfway through when I had to stop because of my brother’s death. I don’t shy away from heavyweight subjects, but for two months, the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, I couldn’t go near the novel, everything felt too raw, too close to home, to the open wound.
A few days ago, I picked it up again and finished it in a heartbeat. Next to “Breathe” by Anne-Sophie Brasme, “Real Life” is definitely a favourite of mine amongst contemporary French literature. A novel about female adolescence within toxic and violent family dynamics, it resonates with women of our time and the past alike. When creating the literary, it is one of the hardest tasks to express complexities in a concentrated, straightforward and unique language. Not unlike one of my favourite powerhouse writers, Elena Ferrante, Adeline Dieudonné captures and rekindles the girlhood spirit that too many women have put to rest for their disengaged womanhood’s sake that they were robbed of in the first place. The novel has a good evocative rhythm and thrilling intensity and keeps the readers on their toes. Motherhood and child/girlhood and transgenerational trauma narratives are part of today’s pulse and a theme that I am very passionate about. The family dynamics including siblinghood in “Real Life” remind me of the ones in “The Lover” by Marguerite Duras, the anonymity of family members and their nuanced relatability are as striking as the idealisations and realisations thereof. The unspoken tensions come to life, are verbalised, confiding in the reader. The rise of female sexuality, self-empowerment and mindful autonomy amongst family ruins to escape the breath of death and find one’s own life, willpower and resilience, resonate deeply with me.