THE MURDERED HOUSE - Pierre Magnan
There is a lot that I liked about this book. Not your traditional "crime story" it's probably best to flag it as a mystery. The mystery builds right from the start with the brutal massacre of an entire family - except for one. When that one orphan, now a man home from the war, returns to his family home, his agony and pain, left alone in the world, is beautifully illustrated in his manual, slow, stone by stone destruction of the house in which is family died; as is his planning of vengeance on those responsible.
Reading this book was a really odd experience for me - on the one hand I spent a fair amount of the book in a fugue of confusion, on the other hand, I found Seraphin's story and he, as a character, incredibly engaging. Sad, determined, damaged and yet powerful, this is a fascinating man. Perhaps part of the confusion for me, at least, comes with the translation. Magnan writes in the vernacular of this small area / town in France and much of that doesn't seem to have translated easily or well. The language in the book ended up feeling a little muddy, murky if you like. I always felt there was something in the descriptions of people and places, the dialogue that I wasn't quite a party too.
So whilst, there was definitely a lot I liked about the book, there was also a bit that I didn't. I most definitely didn't like the confusion. On the other hand I loved the ambiguity. I loved the characters, but felt I never really got to know them. I loved the place, but I felt I never quite got to go there.
I'd certainly not discourage anyone of a more adventurous or curious reading nature to try this book - quite the contrary in some ways. Perhaps it needs to be read as a fantastic, unusual, different style of book, that was translated too exactly. It always felt like somewhere, under the words, there was a beautiful story lurking.
One dark night in the winter of 1896, in remote upper Provence, a family is brutally massacred. Only a three-week-old baby miraculously survives. In 1920, the orphan, Seraphin Monge, finally returns home from the war to pursue the truth. Haunted by the image of his mother's dying moments, he turns on the house that has seen such misery, destroying it stone by stone. As the walls crumble, the killers' identities are laid bare and his anger turns to vengeance. But for every murder Seraphin plots, another hand silently executes it in his place.