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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blood Wedding

Pierre Lemaitre

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To purchase Blood Wedding

Title: Blood Wedding
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 263 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Blood Wedding - US
Blood Wedding - UK
Blood Wedding - Canada
Robe de marié - Canada
Blood Wedding - India
Robe de marié - France
Der kalte Hauch der Angst - Deutschland
L'abito da sposo - Italia
Vestido de novia - España
  • French title: Robe de marié
  • Translated by Frank Wynne

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Our Assessment:

B : over-elaborate(d) -- but a decent twisted thriller-ride

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 23/9/2016 Laura Wilson
The Independent . 14/7/2016 Barry Forshaw

  From the Reviews:
  • "Utterly unpredictable and told with relish, Blood Wedding is a dementedly Hitchcockian tale of gas-lighting: suspend disbelief and enjoy." - Laura Wilson, The Guardian

  • "The ghost of Alfred Hitchcock hovers over this one, but there's little doubt that the Master of Suspense would feel that his legacy is in reliable hands." - Barry Forshaw, The Independent

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:

       The English title already leaves little doubt where this novel is headed (as the original French, Robe de marié -- 'wedding dress'--, doesn't (offering a different sort of hint as to what's to come, in a way that couldn't be translated into English)), but in any case it doesn't take long before things get very ugly and messy. The novel opens in what turns out to be late spring, 2002. Sophie Duguet is working as a nanny, and Sophie is very out of sorts. She's burdened by some bad memories -- her husband, Vincent, was involved in an accident, and then died -- but beyond that she seems to move and be lost in a sort of fog, and she has trouble remembering a lot of things and is uncertain of her own actions.
       In short order, something bad happens to her charge, and Sophie, aware that she will be blamed, goes on the run. Unfocussed at first, she almost immediately manages to compound her already terrible situation with yet more actions that she has no memory of, but the results of which are all too bloodily apparent in front of her.
       Her mind may be muddled, but Sophie proves to be good at evading the authorities. There is an intensive manhunt for her, but months pass and no one seems to have a clue as to where she is. She takes poor-paying, off-the-books jobs and moves around a lot.
       Eventually, Sophie decides she needs a more secure existence. In order to achieve that, she has a plan. First she has to get a fake birth certificate in someone else's name, giving her a new identity to build on. Then she has to get married. Juts for a while, to establish herself in her new identity, but still.
       She encounters some difficulties -- but finally everything seems to come together. She only has a three-month-window in which to get married (the length a notarized copy of a birth certificate is valid for), but she finds a suitable marriage-candidate -- a soldier, apparently -- and sets her sights on reeling him in in time.
       All that unfolds in the first section of the novel, 'Sophie', covering slightly less than half the book. The next section, 'Frantz', jumps back in time and reveals events of the past few years from a different perspective. Frantz's perspective. And suddenly a lot of things are revealed in a very different light. And while Sophie has her little plan to set her life in order again -- at least as best as her damning history allows -- Frantz also turns out to have plans. Plans he's been working on for a long, long time, and which also involve Sophie. He's spun a web and she, unaware of it, has long been trapped in it.
       The plans converge and, needless to say, Sophie's condition and her prospects do not improve. Even when it finally begins to dawn on her what is happening, the question remains whether -- and how -- she could possibly extricate herself from her situation .....
       Lemaitre has imagined a very elaborate thriller. Frantz's obsessive dedication to his plan, and his ability to see it through, is, to put it mildly, implausible -- but it is quite fun (and very creepy) in its execution. Unfortunately, much throughout the novel depends on the fog that the characters are in, a central feature of the plot, and mentally ill or drugged characters who are not quite sure of what is happening around them of course make for problematic characters. Indeed, manipulation of characters, in all forms, is too easily -- almost effortlessly (well, there's a lot of effort, but it works out so easily) -- accomplished throughout the story.
       Surprisingly, too, parts of the plans are actually rather tedious. Lemaitre creates a decently sinister atmosphere, but the true crimes -- there's quite a bit of killing -- happen practically off-scene, while much of the action is relatively mundane (if occasionally psychologically effective) near-inaction. For a thriller covering so much, Blood Wedding does drag a bit.
       The plot is (over-)elaborate rather than ingenious, but its demented elaborateness is reasonably entertaining -- Lemaitre proving again to be a master of the what-more-can-he-heap-on-this-story school of plotting -- and it makes for a decent if not entirely satisfying thriller-read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 October 2016

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Blood Wedding: Reviews: Other books by Pierre Lemaitre under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Pierre Lemaitre was born in 1951.

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