BLOOD WEDDING by Pierre Lemaitre
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: mind-bending & graphic exploration of memory loss and manipulation
BLOOD WEDDING by Pierre Lemaitre is one of my favorite crime books of 2016—and possibly of all time, too. I absolutely binge-read this thriller, and am now planning to order Lemaitre's previous crime novels just to spend more time immersed in his twisted mind. BLOOD WEDDING is an often-violent, always-gripping story that pits memory against truth, and asks both the reader and its protagonist to try to differentiate between the two.
Sophie Duguet is young, successful, and happily married. When she begins misplacing her mail and forgetting where she parked her car the night before, she chalks it up to absentmindedness – those things happen to everyone, right? But her memory loss quickly worsens. Soon Sophie’s marriage has fallen apart, and she finds herself experiencing periods of blackouts and complete disorientation. When one day Sophie wakes up to discover that the young child she nannies for has been brutally murdered, Sophie’s fears for her sanity reach their boiling point, and she goes on the run to escape the law. She finds refuge with a stranger—a man with whom she begins to rebuild her life. But if Sophie can't trust herself, can she really trust anyone else, either?
I previously recommended BLOOD WEDDING to fans of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and I fully stand by that recommendation. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN thrilled fans with its supremely unreliable narrator: a woman whose alcoholism makes both her and the reader unable to trust her memories of events. BLOOD WEDDING takes a similar approach to the "unreliable narrator" mystery, but elevates it.
Pierre Lemaitre's protagonist, Sophie, seems to have memory loss. Readers are fully immersed as Sophie's thoughts become scattered and panicked with her increasingly frequent moments of confusion—so much so that I found myself feeling personally affected by Lemaitre's immersive writing. The first pages of the novel submerge the reader in Sophie's almost manic thoughts as she wakes up, and is faced with the shocking outcome of yet another period of lost time. This vivid characterization extends throughout the novel, and does a supreme job weaving the reader into Sophie's story. Where Sophie is confused, the reader is confused, too; where Sophie is convinced of her guilt in a horrific crime, the reader, too, becomes convinced.
The memory loss angle truly elevates the concept of an "unreliable narrator", and is arguably the most standout facet of this exceptional crime book. Not only are we, the readers, suspicious of the story that the book's main character is telling us, but the main character too is suspicious of her own version of events—and for good reason, as the reader quickly discovers. Sophie's mistrust of her own mind quickly leads her down a dark and dangerous path—and makes her vulnerable to manipulation from those wishing to do her harm. It's an absolutely riveting approach to crime writing, and makes BLOOD WEDDING a tense and truly unpredictable read. I was completely swept up in Sophie's attempt to puzzle out the truth behind both her memory loss and the murder of the young boy in her charge, and I loved how Lemaitre masterfully lays out bread crumbs of this truth amidst Sophie's whirlwind thought process. When the story's "big reveal" finally arrives, I felt just as deeply shocked as Sophie—and this book's finale is as bold and gripping as any I've read in recent memory.
BLOOD WEDDING is simply great crime writing. Brimming with plot twists, unforeseen developments, narrator switches (these switches are fantastic - this review would be excessively long if I went into detail about how much I loved the book's use of alternating narrators!) , and a significant helping of graphic violence, this book is all I had hoped it would be and more. This is in no way a "beach read"; this is a book that will draw you in, shock and even sometimes disgust you, and not let you go until the last page.
Lemaitre has written a vivid and arresting thriller of perception versus truth and love versus manipulation. This is a Fall 2016 must-read; add it to your crime book reading list as soon as possible.
See why I included BLOOD WEDDING as a recommended read for fans of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Read more here.