Ladivine – by Marie Ndiaye

Marie Ndiaye’s writing is very well crafted and polished. Her long sentences, though not as long as Saramago’s, convey complex human psychology and deep and complicated emotions. Her story is rather dark and unsettling. A young woman abandoned her black mother, and later her own daughter left her husband and her two children. In 288 pages, Ndiaye presents the underlying thinking and frustrated emotions of the five characters told in five different POV’s and covering four generations in a family.

The root cause of all the tragedies, though never explicitly mentioned, seems to be the racial issue and the humble background that Clarisse desperately tried to hide from her white husband and daughter. It goes without saying that you can never know how devastating the consequences of your wrong action are once you’ve wronged someone who is so close to your heart.

Ladivine was my first book by Ndiaye and I was impressed with her unique writing. I could see why it might not appeal to other readers, but for me her well written prose coupled with some surreal elements made for a mesmerizing and unexpected read, if not a little frustrating by the long descriptions of all the multiple characters’ inner thoughts in the second half of the book. I myelf am totally vested in the chapters about Clarisse, David and Ladivine, Sr., and don’t care much for the chapters about Ladivine, Jr. and her little daughter.

Translated from French by Jordan Stump
Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2016 (first published in 2013)

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