Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Henri Bosco

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

To purchase Malicroix

Title: Malicroix
Author: Henri Bosco
Genre: Novel
Written: 1948 (Eng. 2020)
Length: 278 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Malicroix - US
Malicroix - UK
Malicroix - Canada
Malicroix - Canada (French)
Malicroix - France
directly from: New York Review Books
  • French title: Malicroix
  • Translated by Joyce Zonana

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : dark and shadowy, to good effect

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 17/1/2020 .
Wall St. Journal . 3/4/2020 Sam Sacks

  From the Reviews:
  • "Bosco's atmospheric investigation of the relationship between environment and mentality successfully merges haunted-house tropes and high modernism." - Publishers Weekly

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Malicroix, set in the early nineteenth century, is narrated by twenty-five-year-old Jean-Martial de Mégremut, who is both a member of a large family -- "thirty or forty Mégremuts [...] the gentlest clan on earth" -- and, on his mothers's side, a Malicroix, the last in the line. His parents are both dead, but he is well taken care of in the large Mégremut-family -- but the novel begins with him being drawn into the Malicroix-fold: his great-uncle, Cornélius de Malicroix, whom he had never met, died, and was apparently leaving an inheritance to Martial: "some marshland, a few livestock, a ramshackle house", all in a remote part of the Camargue. Though his relatives advise against his traveling there -- "the Mégremuts are stay-at-homes", in any case, but they also know more about that dark, distant little Malicroix-world than he does -- he decides he has to check it out.
       A great, great deal of Malicroix is atmosphere: dark, wet, mysterious. Cornélius' property is on an otherwise uninhabited island, La Redousse (the Redoubt), which he hadn't left for the last ten years of his life. A river rushes by -- and Martial reveals early on an: "ancient fear of water, which torments my soul in the presence of rivers and streams, even seen from their banks" -- and on it there is also a ferry boat, of the old style, a steel cable connecting the shores and the boat pulled back and forth along it by the ancient ferryman, Le Grelu.
       Martial is greeted by the man who attended to Cornélius and his holdings, including the flock of animals on the mainland, Balandran. Mysterious and shadowy, he now serves Martial, seeing the young man is provided for but not having much to say for himself, an elusive presence on and around the island.
       Even months later Martial will acknowledge: "Everything here is a mystery", and Bosco sustains a feeling of eerie uncertainty all about throughout the novel, much of which takes place in murky darkness and harsh weather. Suspense also comes in the form of the challenge Martial faces: there are two requirements for him to claim his inheritance, the first of which is that he must: "live on the island without leaving it for three months from the date of his arrival" -- and, only after he has managed that, he must complete a mission Cornélius set out for him in a hidden letter, whose location is known only to Balandran.
       The testament is brought to Martial by Maître Dromiols, the local notary who handled Cornélius' paperwork -- a sinister figure who, it becomes clear, has designs on the property and hopes to see Martial fail (and perhaps see to it ...). Dromiols visits the island to inform Martial of the details, brining with him his assistant, known as Uncle Rat, another ambiguous figure, as everyone and everything here seems to move in various shadows.
       The Malicroix-side increasingly comes to the fore in Martial, and he is determined not to abandon the family-land. He settles in, determined to spend the necessary three months. He brought no books with him and is cut off from almost any contact with the mainland, dependent on Balandran and Dromiols for even any mail to reach him (and quite a bit doesn't ...), leaving him with: "nothing to do -- except roam or reflect". Nevertheless, he manages, braving the elements and the thick air of mystery about the place (both of which Bosco indulges in at considerable length and with great relish) -- and the river: "As soon as I sought a direction and thought to take it, I inevitably came upon the river. Always black, gleaming, icy. It slithered".
       Eventually, Martial comes to learn of Cornélius' own tragedy; unsurprisingly it too has to do with the river -- and with the mysterious hidden codicil to his will, and the mission Martial is meant to undertake .....
       As it becomes clear that Martial might actually stick it out, Dromiols seeks to further undermine his efforts -- but Martial finds himself with some allies who do their best to help him. Things come to a head when Balandran disappears and Martial finds himself ill, Dromiols certain that he has snatched victory -- and the property -- from the would-be heir -- but Martial, emboldened by the Malicroix-blood coursing through him, doesn't give up that easily.
       Almost the entire novel is set on La Redousse, but after enduring such a long time there Martial does return to the Mégremut-fold and its simpler, happy comforts, and remains there for several months, before venturing back to the island to fulfil his destiny, the dark highpoint the novel has built up to.
       As noted, Malicroix is all (generally very dark) atmosphere, most of its figures often in the shadows. Typically, Martial notes, for example, of Dromiols, that: "Even his absence was enormous and somehow corporeal". The weather is often harsh, the river always flowing dangerously, and rain and darkness often envelope the place. Martial does go through a delirious phase, but even that only makes for a more feverish description of the place and his situation; he describes some of his dreams, as well, but the whole place and most of the time are like of a sinister dream-fog.
       The rich description makes for a solidly suspenseful, very elemental -- as far as both the humans and the conditions go -- read, as Malicroix is a neat and creepily murky little family saga.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 August 2021

- Return to top of the page -


Malicroix: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French author Henri Bosco lived 1888 to 1976.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links