Wednesday 11 August 2021

People Like Them by Samira Sedira T. Lara Vergnaud #PeopleLikeThem #SamiraSedira @BloomsburyRaven #BookReview @laravergnaud #TranslatedFiction


There are no monsters. Only humans.

Anna and Constant Guillot and their two daughters live in the peaceful, remote mountain village of Carmac. Everyone in Carmac knows each other, leading simple lives mostly unaffected by the outside world - that is until Bakary and Sylvia Langlois arrive with their three children.

The new family's impressive chalet and expensive cars are in stark contrast with the modesty of those of their neighbours, yet despite their initial differences, the Langlois and the Guillots form an uneasy friendship. But when both families come under financial strain, the underlying class and racial tensions of their relationship reach breaking point, culminating in act of abhorrent violence.

With piercing psychological insight and gripping storytelling, People Like Them asks the questions: How could a seemingly ordinary person commit the most extraordinary crime? And how could their loved ones ever come to terms with what they'd done?

Lullaby meets Little Fires Everywhere, this intense, suspenseful prize-winning novel explores the darker side of human nature - and the terrible things people are capable of.

People Like Them by Samira Sedira was published by Bloomsbury Raven on 8 July 2021 and is translated by Lara Vergnaud.

I read People Like Them in a couple of sittings, at just under 200 pages, it's a short novel, but one that packs an almighty punch.

Inspired by a true-life crime; a mass homicide committed in 2003 in a village in France that made headlines at the time, the author delves deep into the human psyche. Her ability to look deep into society and lay out how the insidious, covert racism and the power of jealousy can create monstrous acts from humans. As the author herself says... 'there are no monsters, only humans.'

The novel is narrated by Anna and begins during a court case. Her husband Constant is in the dock, charged with the murder of an entire family. Father, Mother, Three Children, all brutally slain in their own home. Constant was not a stranger to the family, he was their neighbour, and their friend. 

It is clear that Constant carried out the murder, he admits it, and the passages describing the killings are brutal and stark. What is also clear that this is totally out of character for this previously mild mannered man who has lived in the small French village of Carmac for many years. Raising his family, a huge part of the community. Yet he did kill them. Why?

The author excels in describing the close-knit community of Carmac. A village where the inhabitants are all white. When Bakary and Sylvia Langlois move into the village, things change. Not only are they wealthy and generous, but they are black. Whilst the villagers enjoy the hospitality laid on by the Langlois family and appear to accept them into their lives, there is an undercurrent of mistrust. 

For Constant, whose athletic career ended in tatters, there's an overwhelming feeling of jealousy, hidden from view, but appearing now and again in his speech and his attitude. When the Langlois employ Anna as their cleaner he is filled with rage, and later, when he and his friends feel let down by the actions of Bavary Langlois, his mind breaks. 

People Like Them isn't a fast paced plot, it is a homage to the characters and to village life. Expertly translated, the feel of this tiny community and the long-standing residents is superbly portrayed. The sense of place is excellent and the increasing tension, despite already knowing the outcome is so well done. 

With a hint of danger throughout and ever changing opinions on the characters, this is a beautifully written, astute story told with flair and skill. Recommended by me. 

Samira Sedira is a novelist, playwright, and actress who was born in Algeria and moved to France as
a young girl with her family. 

In 2008, after two decades of acting for film and the stage, she became a cleaning woman, an experience that inspired her autobiographical novel L’odeur des planches (The Smell of the Stage). 

People Like Them is her fourth novel and the first to be translated into English.

Lara Vergnaud is an award-winning translator who specialises in North African literature. 

No comments:

Post a Comment