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Ladivine by Marie N'Diaye

Ladivine (2013)

by Marie N'Diaye

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NDiaye beautifully captures a young woman's desire to create a new identity for herself while not quite leaving her past behind, maintaining a secret relationship for decades with her mother of whom she is embarrassed. She even changes her name from Clarisse to Malinka. This story is about how secrets build impenetrable walls that cannot be torn down by even your closest family members. These walls carry on to the next generation, guaranteeing a distance among loved ones. Malika become undecipherable to those around her. Oddly, her daughter seems to adopt the same characteristics. NDiaye's use of a murder to effect a tremendous transformation of LaDivine, Malinka's daughter, incidentally the same name as Malinka's mother, and of Malinka's mother, is incredibly powerful and almost beautiful. Both find their voices and use them in stunning ways.

Throughout the novel, NDiaye uses mystical elements to push us closer into these three women's reality. Early on we learn that Malinka's mother believes people live in dogs. Also, Malinka's mother is from a town where people share the same physical attributes that Malinka has. Could LaDivine have ended up in that town at the end of the book?

The novel calls on us to use our imaginations. It calls on us to ask whether is is okay to have secrets. And it calls on us to ask whether we are simple-minded if we have no malice toward others.

This is a fascinating novel: part murder mystery, part family drama, part science fiction in a way. I hope to read more of her work. ( )
  ErinDenver | Jun 12, 2017 |
Ladivine, by Marie NDiaye, is an unsettling, mysterious, at times baffling novel that nonetheless fascinates in its depiction of skewed identities and uncertain realities and its attempt to redefine human experience as something fluid and without borders. Malinka is the daughter of a family who immigrated to France. Her father is gone and she’s ashamed of her mother, Ladivine, who collects figurines and works as a cleaner. Malinka grows up, marries Richard Rivière, and transforms herself into cultured, thoroughly European Clarisse Rivière, who, torn and twisted by guilt over how she’s treated her mother, visits Ladivine secretly once a month for many years, over that time somehow managing to keep her two lives and identities separate. Then Richard leaves, and Clarisse, now alone, gradually reverts to her original form as Malinka and takes up with a shiftless drifter with no moral compass and a violent streak. Malinka’s daughter, also named Ladivine, grows up quickly, establishing herself as an exclusive call girl before settling down and marrying Marko and having two children of her own. Much of the narrative’s middle section follows the younger Ladivine and Marko and their children Daniel and Annika as they vacation in an unidentified tropical country, a destination recommended to them by Ladivine’s father Richard. The country they visit aspires to the status of tourist paradise, but the blissful veneer only cloaks, and thinly, a squalid and menacing actuality that Ladivine and Marko are shocked by time and time again. Eventually, after a violent confrontation, they flee the grime and danger of the city for the idyllic countryside and the company of a couple Richard has said will be glad to take them in, but who instead treat them with contempt. Here the story, which all along has hinted at things furtive and obscure within everyday experience, veers more resolutely toward the inexplicable, and yet remains true to its eccentric inner logic. NDiaye’s novel brazenly defies, even shatters, many storytelling conventions, shifting its focus without warning, abruptly dropping plot lines, and often leaving the behaviour and motives of its characters unexplained. The story, rooted firmly in the minds of its characters, presents its peculiar world through their eyes and in unsparing detail. The action moves slowly, as the characters endlessly question their decisions, their observations, their relationships. They relentlessly self-assess and second-guess every move they make, everything they see, and review and examine every word they speak. Most are obsessed with one thing or another and look back on past actions with deep regret. The world they inhabit mirrors our own, and yet again and again, in ways large and small, this world incites puzzlement and confounds our expectations. Daring and original, Ladivine is a novel that challenges its readers to consider the possibility that our experience of life as a straight line built on cause and effect is illusory and that we will probably never truly understand what motivates us to behave as we do. ( )
  icolford | Feb 7, 2017 |
Couldn't make it through this one. No particular reason... Just wasn't all that interested in it. I struggled connecting with the characters, though the writing is beautiful. Might pick it up again later. ( )
  mbecken | Jul 20, 2016 |
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