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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Another November

by
Roger Grenier


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Another November



Title: Another November
Author: Roger Grenier
Genre: Novel
Written: 1986 (Eng. 1998)
Length: 92 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Another November - US
Another November - UK
Another November - Canada
Le Pierrot Noir - Canada
Le Pierrot Noir - France
Le Pierrot Noir - Deutschland
  • French title: Le Pierrot Noir
  • Translated and with a Preface by Alice Kaplan

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Our Assessment:

B+ : slight but well-written

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 27/12/1998 William Ferguson


  From the Reviews:
  • "Roger Grenier's spare and elegant novel, Another November, is a meditation on personal and political loyalties. (...) (T)he melancholy tone of Another November appears to exist not because a thing can prove to be its opposite but because in the end there are no surprises." - William Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In the space of less than a hundred pages the narrator of Another November recounts an entire lifetime, marked especially by the Second World War. His fate is inextricably tied with several others of his generation, each becoming more or less a lost soul in that too-great upheaval. It is a book of a specific time and place, and of a generation.
       The place is Pau (author Grenier's hometown). The narrator's parents run a laundry service, and like much of the city already before the war:

My parents' business had known better days. It was on the downhill slide, inexorably.
       Among the narrator's earliest memories of school are of two children, Anna Dusfresne and the very fat Charles Merlin. Although Charles would largely be privately tutored, he and the narrator became close friends. The rich Merlin family, living in the Villa Rapallo, essentially held court for the boy, making sure in this way that he had friends.
       When the boys are older a third buddy, Jean Legré suggests a 'success pact':
We're going to swear that the one of us who succeeds in life will help the two others.
       But nothing comes of it: the narrator argues that Charles is already so successful (or will at least inherit such success) that it would only work in one direction -- and he's not hat tempted by success anyway ("I was horrified at the word success"). Charles and Jean note that there are no guarantees: with the near-by Spanish Civil War going on, and high tension throughout Europe, one never knew what might happen .....
       As young adults in these times they're all a bit aimless -- "We were starting to go to seed". Charles at least gets the girls -- and too often it's the girls the narrator is interested in. (He is also interested in Charles' very different older sister, Anne-Marie, but she's also out of his league and reach.)
       Grenier gets this different kind of fin-de-siècle atmosphere and attitude down nicely, as when the narrator describes one of Charles' girls, Génia, whom he also has a thing for:
Before, she used to say, "I often think about killing myself." Forcing myself a little, I used to reply, "Me too."
     She didn't talk about that anymore. The good times when we wanted to die were already over.
       The war comes along, and the narrator is drafted. "The war took us unawares", he claims, and in their adolescent way it's possibly even true, to some extent, though the signs of what was coming seemed fairly clear. But the war is never particularly significant: he barely describes his military years -- "I had the impression of spending those years between parentheses".
       Charles escaped military service, but in their effort to protect him the Merlin family wound up cozying up to the Germans, which, after liberation, proved their and his undoing. But it's not just his life that was ruined in such reckless and easy manner; there are other victims: Jean's wife, the woman the narrator marries. No one really survived unscathed.
       It's a short book, and told in an almost casual manner, but actually packs a lot of life and many fates into its few pages. Mirroring the narrator's drifting aimlessness, the book skips over much, and yet his self-portrait seems almost complete. Occasionally, with the many other lives at stake, it feels more an outline of a larger work, but for the most part Grenier pulls off the neat trick of covering so much in so little space. Written with great command and a deceptive simplicity, it also read very well: an impressive little book.

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Links:

Another November: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Roger Grenier was born in 1919.

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