The Woman in Valencia

QC Fiction. Apr. 2021. 230p. ISBN 9781771862370. pap. $23.95. F
DEBUT This Prix Ringuet finalist begins with Claire Halde’s less than excellent vacation in Valencia. As Claire and her family sit by the hotel pool to escape the city’s brutal heat, she witnesses a tragic event that changes her life forever. Back home in Montreal, Claire spends the next six years obsessively going over the incident in her mind; eventually, she divorces her husband and falls apart emotionally. The book’s narration moves back and forth through time, from the opening tragedy, to the family’s life in Montreal, to Claire’s return trip to Valencia; it ends with Laure, Claire’s daughter, running a marathon in Valencia 10 years later. Points of view shift, as Claire is described in the third person, and Laure emerges as a first-person narrator. Perreault excels at creating a sense of place; she makes Valencia feel barren, hot, arid, menacing, and impenetrable. The narrative explores aspects of abandonment, from relinquishing responsibility for family, to surrendering one’s own identity.
VERDICT In this promising debut novel, Canadian author Perreault creates an unsettling world by digging deeply into her characters’ motivations and complexities.
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