Underground Time by Delphine de Vigan (pub date 11/22/11, Kindle edition 12/1/11)
“Though she had lived for years without thinking about it, today this repetition seems to her like a sort of violence being done to her body, a silent sort of violence capable of destroying her.”
It takes a brilliant author to be able to write something that’s relatable to audiences in another continent. In Underground Time, French author Delphine de Vigan captures the sense of oppressing isolation experienced by millions of urban dwellers and corporate workers around the world, and expresses it as a microcosm inhabited by two lonely people.
Mathilde is a single mother working as a marketing manager for a large company in Paris. Though she was once happy and proud to be a part of the corporate machine, she now finds herself the victim of a bullying boss and cruel office politics. Each day that goes by she finds herself a little more defeated, humiliated, and tired. On the other side of the city, paramedic Thibault is contemplating his recently ended relationship and the string of events which ended his dream of being a prominent surgeon. The events of the story all take place in a single day, culminating when these two run into each other in the subway.
This is a book that not everyone will get. Unless you’ve experienced the thankless monotony of being stuck in a miserable job, you may find it difficult to relate to Mathilde and Thibault’s quiet desperation. But the writing and characterization in this book are too good to pass up. The “day in the life” format perfectly fits the feel of the story, and the ending reflects the overall message of the book. And thankfully, the English translation is easy to follow.
This is a short book that you can read over a weekend, but really packs an emotional punch. So grab a crossaint and treat yourself to some brilliant French literature!