‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ by Alain-Fournier

(From the back of the book:)

“When Meaulnes first errives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when he disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house and a beautiful girl hidden within it, Meaulnes has been changed forever. In his restless search for the happiness he found there, he may risk losing everything he ever had.”

Le Grand Meaulnes is a French classic that tells the story of lost childhood, and one character’s search to reclaim it. 

I loved how it was unlike anything I’d read before, yet had echoes of other works running through it. This meant throughout the whole book I had a weird sense of deja-vu; it was like a half-forgotten dream. 

Every page is filled with nostalgia and longing, creating a truly unique atmosphere that sticks with you long after you finish reading. I don’t often cry at books, but I have to say I did weep a bit at the end! Even though the character of Meaulnes is absolutely infuriating (he’s such an arsehole!!) the other characters, especially the melancholy narrator, make up for it. Plus, I think you’re supposed to find Meaulnes frustrating. 

Lots of other reviews- including the introduction at the start of the book- mention the ‘inconsistent tone’ of the author. Personally, I didn’t find this to be an issue, and once I’d got used to it I really didn’t notice. It has to be said that certain scenes do feel a little too bizarre, but I think this just adds to the magic of it.

Some have likened Meaulnes to The Catcher in the Rye and other classic coming-of-age stories, but Alain-Fournier’s novel is infinitely gentler and more dream-like. At times it’s almost like it takes place in a parallel world where everything is in slow motion.

I would highly recommend this book- it’s one of the best I’ve read in ages, and I can’t believe it isn’t more well-known outside France.

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