My love,I m not able to write today, so a fellow Landis is writing this for me Your face is all lit up, I can see you I m happy, I m coming home I would like to shout out my joy on the road, I m coming home I would like to kiss you the way you like me to, I m coming home I must step lively Tomorrow is already Sunday, and we re to be married Monday Fragment of a letter sent from the trenches by a teenage soldier to his girlfriend, on a cold morning in January 1917 Jean Etchevery, affecti My love,I m not able to write today, so a fellow Landis is writing this for me Your face is all lit up, I can see you I m happy, I m coming home I would like to shout out my joy on the road, I m coming home I would like to kiss you the way you like me to, I m coming home I must step lively Tomorrow is already Sunday, and we re to be married Monday Fragment of a letter sent from the trenches by a teenage soldier to his girlfriend, on a cold morning in January 1917 Jean Etchevery, affectionately called Manech by his fianc e Mathilde and Cornflower by his comrades in arms, never gets home for his wedding The very same day he is reported as killed in the line of duty For two years, Mathilde lives with her grief, until one day another soldier sends her a letter revealing the cruel, criminal actions of the authorities that led to her fianc e s death Despite being confined to a wheelchair by a childhood accident that cost her the use of her legs, Mathilde is resolved to find out the truth about that fateful day, hoping against all odds that Manech had somehow survivedEsperanza sighs, My dear girl , and says that she has better ways to spend her youth especially given her lot in life than to go chasing the wind Her desire to marry a fiancee lost in the war is a noble sentiment, but she should put all bitterness aside Bingo Crepuscule was a trench among thousands, the sixth of January in 1917 was one day in the horror of fifteen thousand others, and Manech one unfortunate soul among millions of unhappy soldiers A moving love story, a terrible account of the horrors of the Great War, a criminal investigation full of surprises, a panoramic view of France before, during and in the aftermath of the war this novel has it all and Japrisot weaves the different threads with a mastery that made one reviewer compare it to the famous epic of Tolstoy War and Peace After turning the last page, such hyperbole doesn t look as forced as I initially thought.I don t remember many private investigators that are confined to a wheelchair Mathilde has other qualities that compensate for her lack of mobility perseverance, patience, attention to detail and tidiness in organizing the accumulation of clues She may be motivated by love, but she goes about her quest in a very professional way She s not a lone wolf in the style of American hard boiled, she uses all her friends and family and even hires people to help her in her search Most of all, Mathilde writes letters and visits the relatives of the other four men who shared the fate of Manech on that desperate January morning, sent out into the no man s land between German and French trenches by their own comrades.It s not easy to write an epistolary novel using multiple voices It takes real talent to get the different backgrounds and the different temperaments right Japrisot managed to switch styles for each new character relating his or her recollection of the events to Mathilde With his experience writing crime fiction it is not a surprise that he builds the case carefully and keeps the reader guessing at the outcome until almost to the last page of the book view spoiler my favourite part is the story of Tina Lombardi who re enacts the Edmond Dantes story, taking revenge on the officers and politicians who sent her lover to die like an animal between trenches hide spoiler What surprised me in a good way was how well he tackled the romantic part of the story and how powerful is the evocation of the life in the trenches and of the lasting psychological scars left in the minds of the survivors.The term PTSD was unknown in 1917, but the following quote may explain the revolt of any reasonable person at the cruelty of punishing the young Manech whose mind collapses under prolonged exposure to stressHe was afraid of the war and of death, like almost everyone, but he was also afraid of the wind, that harbinger of gas attacks, afraid of a flare tearing through the night, afraid of himself, for he never knew what he might do when he was afraid, afraid of his own side s artillery, afraid of his own gun, afraid of the whine of aerial torpedoes, afraid of mines that explode and engulf a whole section of infantry, afraid of the flooding that drowns you in the dugout, afraid of the earth that buries you alive, afraid of the stray blackbird that casts a sudden shadow before your eyes, afraid of the nightmares in which you always wind up gutted at the bottom of a shell hole, afraid of the sergeant who dreams of blowing your brains out because he s fed up with carping at you, afraid of the rats that come for a little foretaste, sniffing you as you sleep, afraid of the lice and the crotch crabs and the memories that suck your blood, afraid of everything To find out if Manech or any of the other four doomed soldiers survived, you will need to read the novel, and not solely my review I don t have any reservation about recommending the novel, and I plan to both readbooks by Sebastien Japrisot, and to watch the movie adaptation with Audrey Tatou and Marion Cotillard, two of the best new actresses in France.As an epitaph, I have chosen the words of one of the survivors, succinctly capturing the essence of the story I ll keep waiting, for as long as it takes, for this war to be seen in everyone s eyes for what it always was, the most filthy, savage, useless obscenity that ever there was Neither truly a love story, nor a war story, nor a detective story, this book somehow manages to be all three, but also muchit s a book about the painful complications of being human in a situation where nothing makes sense and about how one disabled young woman will let nothing stop her from getting to the truth.In this intricately plotted novel, Japrisot tells the story of Mathilde, a wheelchair bound painter from Cap Breton, who s beloved fianc Manech is sent to the Great War All the Neither truly a love story, nor a war story, nor a detective story, this book somehow manages to be all three, but also muchit s a book about the painful complications of being human in a situation where nothing makes sense and about how one disabled young woman will let nothing stop her from getting to the truth.In this intricately plotted novel, Japrisot tells the story of Mathilde, a wheelchair bound painter from Cap Breton, who s beloved fianc Manech is sent to the Great War All the is told is that he is dead, but she refuses to accept such a simple statement she needs to know when and how As she digs for information about her fianc , she discovers the convoluted tale of a small detachment of soldiers who deliberately mutilated themselves, and as punishment for their act of cowardice , were pushed into No Man s Land, between the French and German trenches, where it was hoped they would get shot by enemy fire Was Manech there Is that how he died Mathilde will learn the story of the other four soldiers who were with Manech in that dreadful trench, what their lives were before the War, and she will learn the story of the women they left behind and who also moved Heaven and Earth to get answers and justice for their loves.This is quite a unique little book The epistolary format works perfect, as Japrisot created strong individual voices for all his characters, and gives the reader and unusual leading lady that you can t help but root for Mathilde is grouchy, stubborn, pushy and sometimes unkind and manipulative, but she is very intelligent and is, at the end of the day, motivated by the strength of her love and devotion for Manech This makes her a lovable and admirable heroine no wonder people want to help her as much as they can The other characters are just as scuffed and quirky as she is, very human in their mistakes and regrets.This book is as much about unraveling the mystery of the trench as it is about showing that the War destroyed muchthan soldiers bodies and minds, that every little aspect of life was impacted by its violent senselessness And yes, there are moments where its a bit of a tear jerker, but it s also comforting to read about the stubbornness of hope, and it s refusal to admit defeat.It can be a confusing read at times, because characters often have multiple nicknames by which people refer to them, and the prose sometimes looses itself it attempts to be pretty which it absolutely is, but you can take a breath every once in a while, S bastien , but its such a affecting tale, such a harrowing description of war without ever falling into the trap of garish details, that I feel bad taking away a single star from my rating Evocative, moving and devastating.A lovely movie was made from this novel, starring Audrey Tautou at the time where she seemed to be in every single movie French studios churned out But as over saturated as I was by her presence for awhile, I truly loved that film, which was perfectly cast, beautifully acted and shot in a splendid nostalgic style, down the sepia tone of the light and colors Oh my, explaining why I have rated this three stars is complicated, just as complicated as the book is When it ended, I liked it a lot Very much in fact, so it should get four stars Right Except that if you have been following the comments I have been making about it at diverse places at GR you will have noted that I have been annoyed, exasperated and at wits end as I read this book So what is going on As I stated, the book is complicated If you are adept at solving mysteries and love pa Oh my, explaining why I have rated this three stars is complicated, just as complicated as the book is When it ended, I liked it a lot Very much in fact, so it should get four stars Right Except that if you have been following the comments I have been making about it at diverse places at GR you will have noted that I have been annoyed, exasperated and at wits end as I read this book So what is going on As I stated, the book is complicated If you are adept at solving mysteries and love paying close attention to every detail and love unraveling clues, then this book will be perfect for you You will give it five stars I am not talented at this My response was to get thoroughly annoyed In this book just about all the characters go by numerous names They go by their name given at birth, their military rank, where they come from and other nicknames too I jotted down all these details and still was lost much of the time I was always asking, Who is that People change identities, there are coded letters that say something completely different from what you assume and people state what they think, but that isn t always true All of this put together annoyed me to pieces I have already seen the movie, so I didn t even start from scratch By the end I pretty much understood everything, but not all To achieve that, I would have to listen to the whole thing from start to finish a second time.At the end it occurred to me that perhaps the author is indeed making a point with all this confusion, particularly with the different names and identities The confusion is intended it is part of the message to be imparted by the book What is the value of a name Is it important Does it matter who exactly did that deed In all the horror of war what is one individual This book wonderfully shows the absurdity and horror of war This is its largest merit This is why you should read the book I have seen the movie in French This too proved to be a source of confusion for me Mathilde, who is looking for her fianc , hoping that he has survived WW1, is portrayed very differently in the French movie and in the translated audiobook How did the author intend her to be seen In the film she was strong and smart, but sweet and lovely too In the book she is flippant and sarcastically funny She is lame due to a childhood accident I object to seeing her portrayed so differently Why Although in both she is shown as a strong, determined woman, I felt that her flippant remarks didn t jive with the setting, Picardy, France, during the first three decades of the 1900s Here is an example Mathilde wants to take off to follow another clue, having just that day returned home When she suggests another trip, Sylvan respondsIt is not me that is going to squawk Bibihis wifeis the one who won t be pleased Leaning forward in her chair, Mathilde murmurs insidiously and ardently, Give her a good work out tonight Let s hear the rafters ring She always adores you afterwards She will be putty in our handsBook two, track 4, of the audiobook I assume you understand how Bibi was to be softened The next day, off they go, exactly as planned, without a word from Bibi These words are stranger still given that Mathilde has been raised for many years, almost as a daughter, in their home Too often the language is too modern It doesn t feel either French in character or appropriate for the 1920s Has the book been poorly translated from French I listened to the audiobook narrated by Isabel Keating Has she exaggerated the flippant lines of the translation Something has gone wrong The atmosphere, which I so loved in the original French film, was gone from the audiobook presentation So I will give the book three stars If I were one who loved solving mysteries, I would have given it four You decided if the mystery solving will entice or annoy you I do think it very well shows what actually happens in war It shows the total absurdity of war It shows trench warfare at its ugliest It showed how people were destroyed by the war Then, at the very end, it also showed how people picked themselves up and made a new life So it was not depressing It did not at all end on a sour note People are strong All of us are, if we just decide to be Some pick up the loose ends and go on to make a good life for themselves.Having finished the book I feel it merits four stars, but I did complain a lot, so I am giving it three Read it rather than listen to it and read it in French if you can You may then give it five stars The movie was worth five stars.Onething the story is just too complicated for an audiobook The French trenches on the Western Front during World War I were muddy, cold, and infested with lice and rats The men lived in constant danger, and saw their good friends die by their sides Some soldiers suffered shell shock , some deserted, some committed suicide, and others wounded themselves to get away from this hell on earth The book opens as five soldiers, who have allegedly shot themselves in the hand, walk through the mud to the Front Their punishment is to be brought to the area be The French trenches on the Western Front during World War I were muddy, cold, and infested with lice and rats The men lived in constant danger, and saw their good friends die by their sides Some soldiers suffered shell shock , some deserted, some committed suicide, and others wounded themselves to get away from this hell on earth The book opens as five soldiers, who have allegedly shot themselves in the hand, walk through the mud to the Front Their punishment is to be brought to the area between the French trenches and the enemy trenches where probable death awaits them.Mathilde, the fiancee of Manech, has been told by officials that he died on the battlefield But she receives a letter from a dying soldier who tells her that Manech was one of the five soldiers with the self inflicted wounds The soldier thinks that one orof them may still be alive Mathilde is in a wheelchair but she has an intelligent mind, a strong spirit, and a deep love for Manech With the help of her wealthy father, her chauffeur, and a detective, Mathilde contacts the families of the other four men, as well as other soldiers, to getinformation She receives conflicting accounts of their final days, so we don t know if Manech and the other four men survived until the end of the book Mathilde s contacts show us the terrible effects of the war on the civilian population as well as the military.The novel is a mystery, a World War I story, and a love story as it flashes back to Manech s and Mathilde s relationship The book can be a little confusing at first since the characters are called by several names, so it helps to jot down their nicknames and professions For example, Jean Etchervery is Manech, Cornflower, and the fisherman Throughout the book there is a great warmth and respect displayed by the living soldiers toward their fallen comrades and the widows who are dealing with so much pain I recall being profoundly moved by this book, and the turmoil of its characters I read it many, many years ago likely around the time of the film release and enjoyed it so muchthan I expected It s well written and creates a really beautiful story. This is a powerful novel which touches on how war can destroy the human psyche As I read, I thought that each of us has a breaking point Some reach that point sooner than others, and, if we re lucky, most of us never have to find out for ourselves what triggers it The five men of the GR description reached their breaking point and chose self mutilation in order to avoid further time at the front Each has been court martialed for that offense and sentenced to death Instead of facing the firi This is a powerful novel which touches on how war can destroy the human psyche As I read, I thought that each of us has a breaking point Some reach that point sooner than others, and, if we re lucky, most of us never have to find out for ourselves what triggers it The five men of the GR description reached their breaking point and chose self mutilation in order to avoid further time at the front Each has been court martialed for that offense and sentenced to death Instead of facing the firing squad, their sentence was to be sent over the top into No Mans land to await their discovery by the Germans.The novel is mostly taken up with the story of one young woman, Mathilde Donnay, who was engaged to the youngest of the five She, and the families of the other four, were notified of their loved one s death as having been honorable in the line of duty Mathilde learns such may not have been the case A determined woman, she tries to learn the truth of what happened that day.I have read a few books of late where I didn t like any of the characters This novel is quite the opposite I liked everyone Of course, there were some soldiers referred to who were not likeable, but they were not the actual characters in the book, just those spoken about But while the five had reached their breaking point, there were heroes as well I quite liked Mathilde, who had been in a wheel chair since the age of three Sylvain, one of her care givers, was marvelous There were soldiers who had been there on that day who shared their memories and not necessarily memories of themselves, but of others.While I have givenplot than I usually do in my reviews, I never felt this was solely a plot driven novel Some might think so The writing fits the story perfectly, and the manner in which the story is told is varied Mathilde wrote letters, and though the contents of her letters are never included, we get the contents of her responders I found the characterizations of the main characters to be quite good, and even those of the minor characters wasa good cameo than wooden representations.I don t know if I would readby this author or not, as I haven t looked to see anything about other titles or whether they have been translated I wanted to read this novel in my pursuance of learning experiencingabout World War One It served that purpose magnificently, and amthan happy to give it a full 5 stars I LOVED this book And I loved the main character, Mathilde,than just about any character in any book I ve ever read She is strong, sarcastic, always gets what she wants, and has a good sense of humor Mathilde, despite her sarcasm and pig headedness seems to inspire devotion in everyone she meets How could you not admire someone who accomplishes as much as she does despite being in a wheelchair How can you not admire her devotion to Manech She would not rest until she got to the botto I LOVED this book And I loved the main character, Mathilde,than just about any character in any book I ve ever read She is strong, sarcastic, always gets what she wants, and has a good sense of humor Mathilde, despite her sarcasm and pig headedness seems to inspire devotion in everyone she meets How could you not admire someone who accomplishes as much as she does despite being in a wheelchair How can you not admire her devotion to Manech She would not rest until she got to the bottom of what happened to him And the mystery of what happened to Manech and four other soldiers who were thrown into No Man s Land by their own leaders keeps you reading on and on There are so many different versions of what happened that Mathilde s investigation is constantly taking one step forward and two steps back But there s a constant feeling of momentum you know Mathilde will get to the bottom of this As time goes on she gets closer to solving the mystery by meeting people who are closer to what finally happened to Manech This is such a wonderful story of love and devotion, but don t worry, it never gets sappy Mathilde would have hated that I ve been reviewing for over 5 years In that time, there is only one book that I ever started that I did not finish Well, now that number is increasing to two.I won t give a summary as many, many others have given a really detailed summary that is far better than anything I could ever have done justice to Instead, let me tell you why I stopped at page 113 and why I have no inclination to finish this book.The first twenty pages are spent introducing five soldiers their names, their prison num I ve been reviewing for over 5 years In that time, there is only one book that I ever started that I did not finish Well, now that number is increasing to two.I won t give a summary as many, many others have given a really detailed summary that is far better than anything I could ever have done justice to Instead, let me tell you why I stopped at page 113 and why I have no inclination to finish this book.The first twenty pages are spent introducing five soldiers their names, their prison numbers, their family, their main characteristics The next thirty or so pages are spent reintroducing those five soldiers and continuing a few moments ahead in their story And finally, at page 60, we are introduced, in a large, very exposition heavy 5 page section, our main character.I found the writing is terribly confusing I don t know if it was meant to be that way, or if that is a fault of translating from French, or maybe I am just plain stupid, but sentences sounded weird, the writing was dense, and I had to start skimming in order to make any progress in this book The book is written in present tense, but that feltunwieldy and clumsy than some YA books I ve read Sections switched points of view sometimes without a section break, leading from first person to third person in just a paragraph And it seems an omniscient narrator is dictating thisexcept for a few places where I thought it was Mathilde.The characters are painfully dull First of all, I could hardly keep them all straight They were like a deck of only red cards, which the author flashed at me I couldn t tell who was a diamond, who was a heart, if that person was a 3 of hearts or perhaps a 6 of diamonds The characters were so flat, it would be a compliment to call them two dimensional About the only one I cared for was the soldier wrongfully accused of self mutilationand I have absolutely no idea what his name is or who he is beyond that he didn t self mutilate and was wrongfully charged Mathilde was a horrible character, in my opinion She was stiff, unlikeable calling random people sh t kicker is NOT a way to endear a character to me , and oddly characterized I don t mind having a woman proud of her body, but this passage just doesn t sound like any woman I know She has very lovely breasts She s proud of them they re heavy, well rounded, and softer than silk When she caresses her nipples she soon feels like making love She makes love all by herself Male fantasy Bad translation A very, extremely confident woman that I ve never encountered I don t have a clue.Mathilde exchanges letters with various people These people are startlingly open about their private lives, sometimes going on pages and pages when they supposedly aren t big on writing to detail every last detail of that person s life to a complete stranger.The story is supposed to be about a mystery, but it really didn t kick into gear until the last 20 pages that I read Even then, I have no drive to figure it out I predict one of three outcomes 1 Mathilde finds Manech and reunites sure, a litfic book is really going to choose the happily ever after ending , 2 Mathilde finds Manech and doesn t reunite most likely , and 3 Mathilde finds Manech dead too depressing, even for a litfic book It doesn t really matter what ending will be chosen Lessons will be Learned People will Change Morals will be Passed on view spoiler I read the last 20 pages or so and looks like I was right Mathilde does find Manech, but he has lost his memory, so she leaves him in his new life hide spoiler And this is why I am giving up on this book There is no way I can force myself to read another page, and with so many other better books out there, I am going to pass on this one.HOWEVER, just because I didn t like it, doesn t mean it s horrible I rated it 2 stars because I didn t like it I m sure lots of people who love mysteries, historicals, and books about World War I will love this To them, I say, go ahead and give this book a try I hope you have a muchenjoyable read than I did In January , five wounded French soldiers, their hands bound behind them, are brought to the front at Picardy by their own troops, forced into the no man s land between the French and German armies, and left to die in the cross fire Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a relentless quest to find out whether her fianc , officially killed in the line of duty, might still be alive Tipped off by a letter from a dying soldier, the shrewd, sardonic, and wonderfully imaginative Mathilde scours the country for information about the men As she carries her search to its end, an elaborate web of deception and coincidence emerges, and Mathilde comes to an understanding of the horrors, and the acts of kindness, brought about by warA runaway bestseller in France and the winner of thePrix Interalli , this astonishing novel is many things at once an absorbing mystery, a playful study of the different ways one story can be told, a moving and incisive portrait of life in France during and after the First World War, and a love story of transforming power and beauty Perhaps this is better in the original French It opens promisingly enough on a dark January night in 1917, five soldiers are hauled up to the bizarrely named Bingo Cr puscule trench and forced into No Man s Land as punishment for wounding themselves in order to get out of the war Ostensibly, by the next day all are killed by German fire However, a letter sent in 1919 to the fianc e of one of the dead soldiers leads her to believe otherwise She embarks on a search to trace anyone who might k Perhaps this is better in the original French It opens promisingly enough on a dark January night in 1917, five soldiers are hauled up to the bizarrely named Bingo Cr puscule trench and forced into No Man s Land as punishment for wounding themselves in order to get out of the war Ostensibly, by the next day all are killed by German fire However, a letter sent in 1919 to the fianc e of one of the dead soldiers leads her to believe otherwise She embarks on a search to trace anyone who might know what actually happened, a search made bothdifficult andinteresting by her physical limitations she s wheelchair bound and the devastation of post war France.Mathilde s search is certainly intriguing, if a bit circuitous Also intriguing are the unfolding stories of the five soldiers lives and war time service However, some of the characters are a bit coarse It s a decent mystery and an interesting look into the nightmare of World War I, but not the most compelling novel I ve ever read