The story: Aged just twelve, Antoine acts out of in a fit of anger, with horrific consequences. From that day, he lives his life in the constant shadow of shame and doubt, driven by an overwhelming desire to escape from the consequences of his actions. As an adult, he’s determined to get away from the small town where he grew up and make a different life for himself. But when unforeseen circumstances draw him back home and into the orbit of old friends and acquaintances, events transpire to bring old truths to the surface, no matter how hard Antoine tries to keep them buried forever.
My thoughts: Pierre Lemaitre is a French crime writer that I’ve been following for a while, and I think I’ve read all of the books he’s written that have been translated into English. His previous novels have been much more intense and focus on a series of grisly murders and psychological abuse. In contrast, Three Days and a Life was a bit of a departure from what I was used to reading from this author.
This novel is very much focused on characters, and on taking us as readers and immersing us in the culture and pace of a small French town, with all its idiosyncrasies. There are little touches of humour dotted throughout, as well as some amusing anecdotes surrounding French traditions and life in small villages, complete with petty jealousies and rivalries but also with a real sense of community.
Our main character, Antoine, was just a child when the first events take place, and he has spent his whole life trying to escape what happened. The secret he’s been keeping has had a huge impact on his life and his relationships – including those with his mother, with his fiancé and with his old childhood friends.
Lemaitre paints a vivid picture of the stress and turmoil that Antoine faces as a twelve year old child, and later as an adult, unable to confide in those closest to him. Morally, he knows he’s in the wrong, but he repeatedly chooses not to own up to his actions, knowing that to speak up would have profound and long lasting consequences on the life that he’s tried so hard to build.
Towards the end of the novel, the pace starts to build as Antoine grows more and more desperate. Whatever he does, he can’t run from his past. No matter what path he chooses, there’s always the very real possibility that it could be destroyed in an instant.
This is quite a short book, and I read it in a single afternoon, but it raised some interesting moral questions about responsibility and how far people are willing to go to save their own skin. It’s described as a thriller, but for me it was more of a study into the human mind.