“We had the vague impression we could hear the planes flying over Baghdad and the bombs dropping.”
Because the inner cover says it better than I can: Today, Alice is going to marry Mad. They have been friends since childhood. They have played together, laughed together, cried together, and taken stands against injustice together. Today, Alice is going to marry Mad – not because after years of friendship they have suddenly become romantically involved, but because Alice is white and French, and Mad is neither. Despite having spent almost his entire life in France, Mad, born in Mali, is now being threatened with deportation. Today, Alice is going to marry Mad – because getting married seems the only possible solution to Mad’s predicament. Today, Alice is going to marry Mad, and for Alice this steps marks the end of adolescence, the end of her years of innocence and the start of adulthood.
The minute I finished Take This Man, I had to email the publisher (Daniela at Europa Editions) because I was so in love with the book and had to tell someone before I got bogged down in fair value adjustments on acquisition of subsidiaries again…
While there is obviously a strong focus on French immigration politics (which seems to be even more draconian than the current UK immigration politics), Zeniter writes several long passages on the zeitgeist, what it is to be young and passionate in the early years of the twenty-first century.
“My generation saw order restored after May ’68, my generation tried to imitate May ’68, my generation starts daydreaming as soon as May comes around, my generation doesn’t have a clue where these classes that are supposed to be struggling might have gone to.”
It’s so fresh and unusual and rebellious. Of course, the big question is: is it autobiographical? On the one hand – the protagonist has the author’s name; on the other hand, four years from the wedding in 2009 has not yet elapsed, and it would be terribly risky for her to confess all in this novel! A bit of internet searching suggests that it is not autobiographical, so I’m intrigued as to the author’s use of her own name for the protagonist.
I was surprised by the protagonist’s hesitance about marrying her friend to keep him in France – she’s so vehement about her own multi-racial identity and taking the fight to the fascist pigs, but she’s really a frightened girl, scared of the police, scared of shackling herself to someone she loves as a friend but not as a husband, scared of her parents’ reaction. It made her much deeper as a character than I had anticipated.