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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Everyday Life

Lydie Salvayre

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To purchase Everyday Life

Title: Everyday Life
Author: Lydie Salvayre
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 117 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Everyday Life - US
Everyday Life - UK
Everyday Life - Canada
La Vie commune - Canada
La Vie commune - France
  • French title: La Vie commune
  • Translated by Jane Kuntz

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Our Assessment:

B : entertainingly dark self-centered monologue, but a bit skimpy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/12/2006 Julia Scheeres

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)he book goes from mildly amusing to chilling in 119 delectable pages. (...) Salvayre,who has a degree in psychiatry, pulls off the tricky feat of making the reader empathize equally with tormentor and tormentee." - Julia Scheeres, 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:

       Suzanne has worked at the same company as a secretary for some three decades. Her only family is her dutiful but increasingly distant daughter, and she has no real friends. What she has is:

a special gift when it comes to organization. I foresee. I classify. I pinpoint. I delete. I like things to be orderly. Monsieur Meyer often compliments on this. And until now, my life has been -- I dare say -- as neat as my desk. Nothing ever used to go wrong.
       Suzanne is a model of rigidity, and after all these years is very set in all her ways. Adapting to the new, or even gradual change, is obviously always going to be a problem for her, and when a new secretary is hired she can't deal with it.
       The new secretary manages to rub her in all the wrong ways, and Suzanne is incapable of ignoring her, or getting along with her. From the first there's a battle of wills going on here, and Suzanne's hardness makes her a much softer and easier target. Every little change bothers her -- and the secretary brings nothing but change.
       Suzanne is clearly worried about aging and becoming obsolete. She's hardly a sexual being any more, hardly a mother -- her daughter is married and starting a family of her own --, and now her last bastion, the workplace, is threatened by this new secretary.
       Suzanne entertainingly constantly overreacts to the slightest slight (perceived as often as real) or the secretary's different way of doing things. Though otherwise apparently fairly cold and uptight, there's an incredible passion to her relationship with this newcomer -- as when she vents to her daughter:
     I loathe her.
     You love her ?
     My daughter never listens to me. She doesn't understand me.
       Everyday Life is Suzanne's monologue chronicling her rapid spiral into oblivion. When the secretary comes Suzanne immediately declares war on her, not realising that she herself is unprepared for battle. Or perhaps it's a self-destructive path she chooses to hasten the arrival of the inevitable.
       Salvayre gives Suzanne a forceful voice, but it's mostly monologue, too much internalised to help her work things out. She complains -- to her daughter, to a doctor -- but one can almost feel the pressure building up (and there wasn't much room left to work with from the beginning). The secretary isn't an innocent victim, either, but Suzanne's approach just makes things worse and worse (for herself, mainly).
       Things move fairly fast in the book, and it might have had more power if Salvayre had let Suzanne rant some more; as is, the book feels almost rushed, especially in its conclusion. Salvayre captures the character well -- and that desperation of finding oneself increasingly peripheral in a changing world --; the only shame is that there's not more of her.

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Everyday Life: Reviews: Lydie Salvayre: Other books by Lydie Salvayre under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Lydie Salvayre has written numerous books.

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© 2006-2009 the complete review

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