Genre: Literary fiction
Length: 105 pages
Publishing Date: November 29th 2017
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From the Blurb:
OPEN – Pierre’s Journey after War is an intimate story of a man whose wife and children are killed during bombardments of France in WWII. Devastated and embittered, Pierre leaves everything behind and embarks on an odyssey to bury his past in the darkest recesses of his mind. The journey, which lasts more than forty years, involves a sequence of events and coincidences that ultimately provide him new direction and a sense of purpose.
My Rating: 4/5
The book takes an intimate look into the aching soul of Pierre, a kind, empathetic man. After losing his wife and five children to the aerial bombing of France during the Second World War, Pierre takes on the life of a vagabond and wanders around the continents with an ache in his heart and revenge on his mind.
On his journey across the globe, he comes across varied people, most of whom suffer equally daunting injustice on the hands of the fate. It is after he returns to France as an old man, he comes across Melissa and Patrick, and unburdens himself by talking about his acute loss.
Margareth Stewart has a way with the words. The emotions: be it of grief or of intimacy, she has described beautifully:
“So many lives lost. You must feel lucky to have survived.”
“I was wrongly…spared.”
The characterization is great. There are several secondary characters who come and stay for a short while, but readers can glimpse what’s there in their soul: they aren’t easily forgettable: they don’t get lost in the intricate details of Pierre’s journey. Stewart scores plus points there.
The story is woven around two powerful emotions: of a person’s guilt for his inability to protect his family and desire for revenge against those responsible.
Despite his desire for revenge, Pierre is a gentle soul – a compassionate, empathetic individual. He, with his heartache, his inability to come out of his grief makes you sad and yet, there’s no overly laid melodrama. The author etched the devastating, soul-wrenching psychological experience of losing everything to the war in simple, beautiful words.
My only complaint about the story is: the ending. It’s true Pierre can talk about his life tragedy toward the end, but he’s not shown achieving the salvation.
For Mel, the story ends on a positive note, but I would have liked to see Pierre fully come to term with his tragic past, accepting it and moving on finally. The revenge stayed at the back of his mind all his life, and though, toward the end, he seems to let the feeling go (he talks about revenge being a trap which wouldn’t bring his wife and children back), the resentment is still there, the idea of forgiveness is still something alien for him.
A beautifully written novella by Margareth Stewart.