Book review: Suspended Sentences – I love France #153

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Suspended Sentences



Suspended Sentences audio

Suspended Sentences
by Patrick Modiano
Translated by Mark Polizzotti

Narrated by
Bronson Pinchot, Sean Runnette, Arthur Morey

Length: 6 hrs and 37 mins

Release Date: 12/23/14

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.Blackstone Audio

Genre:  literary fiction /novellas

Source: Received from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this audio book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

 French Bingo 2015 logo   2015 Translation  2015 audiobook



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Rue des boutiques obscures was my first encounter with Patrick Modiano‘s writing, when I was a young teen, and I have enjoyed him ever since. I thought it would be interesting to see what it feels like to read him in English. I know, this sounds weird, but an opportunity came up to actually listen to Suspended Sentences.

What’s really nice in Modiano’s works is that you can recognize him by his ambiance. His writing has this amazing quality of grey haziness (just like in the audiobook cover, perfect choice!). When you read him, you have the feeling of being in a black and white world.
He also manages like non other I know to create silence through words.
And the main themes are always memory and souvenirs, like a desperate try to grab whatever you can vaguely remember. What Proust tries in color, Modiano does it in black and white.
The 3 novellas presented here are actually 3 separate works in French. There’s no real plot, that’s not the point. The point is the people, as they wander through Paris streets (I think you could go as far as to  consider Paris streets as characters in Modiano’s work, so central they are), whom they met, and their memories.
If you want to try giant of French literature, this could be a good place to start. The translator did such a great jog that I totally felt I was in Modiano’s world

Audio production:
Unfortunately, the audio production was not that good – that’s why I’m only giving it 4 Eiffel Towers.
The first narrator was fine, and I did get the Modiano’s mood through his tone of voice. The two others were quite dull.
I was also appalled at the number of mistakes in the pronunciation of French words, especially by the last narrator. This narrator has a foreign accent, but apparently he is not French, if he does not even know how to pronounce words like Bastille, tabac, and even Gare de l’Est, which most tourists going to Paris would know!!
Seriously, if you are going to publish a professional audiobook on a French Nobel Prize literature, aren’t you going to have your narrators double check the pronunciation of French words by French natives? And if you do decide to use a foreign narrator, fine with me, but why not choose a narrator from the original language of that book? Quite baffling choice.
This is really totally unacceptable.

VERDICT: Superb translation of 3 novellas by the latest Nobel Prize in literature, recreating the grey haziness feel characteristic of Modiano’s work. Read it, don’t go for the audiobook.


Although originally published separately, Patrick Modiano’s three novellas form a single, compelling whole, haunted by the same gauzy sense of place and characters. Modiano draws on his own experiences, blended with the real or invented stories of others, to present a dreamlike autobiography that is also the biography of a place. Orphaned children, mysterious parents, forgotten friends, enigmatic strangers—each appears in this three-part love song to a Paris that no longer exists. In this superb English-language translation of Afterimage, Suspended Sentences, and Flowers of Ruin, Mark Polizzotti captures not only Modiano’s distinctive narrative voice but also the matchless grace and spare beauty of his prose.

Shadowed by the dark period of the Nazi Occupation, these novellas reveal Modiano’s fascination with the lost, obscure, or mysterious: a young person’s confusion over adult behavior; the repercussions of a chance encounter; the search for a missing father; the aftershock of a fatal affair. To read Modiano’s trilogy is to enter his world of uncertainties and the almost accidental way in which people find their fates. [provided by Goodreads]


Patrick ModianoPatrick Modiano is a French language novelist
and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature.
He is a winner of the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972,
the Prix Goncourt in 1978
for his novel Rue des boutiques obscures
and of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014.

Modiano’s parents met in occupied Paris during World War II and began their relationship in semi-clandestinity. Modiano’s childhood took place in a unique atmosphere: between the absence of his father — of which he heard many troubled stories — and his mother’s frequent tours, he had to complete his secondary education by government aid. This brought him closer to his brother, Rudy, who died of a disease at age 10 (the works of Patrick Modiano from 1967 to 1982 are dedicated to him). This disappearance announced the end of the author’s childhood, who continued to hold a marked nostalgia for this period.

Modiano studied at the École du Montcel primary school in Jouy-en-Josas, at the Collège Saint-Joseph de Thônes in Haute-Savoie, and then at the Lycée Henri-IV high school in Paris. While he was at Henri-IV, he took geometry lessons from writer Raymond Queneau, who was a friend of Modiano’s mother. He received his baccalaureate at Annecy but didn’t proceed with his higher education.

His meeting with Queneau, the author of Zazie dans le métro, is crucial. Modiano was introduced to the literary world by Queneau, and this gave him the opportunity to attend a cocktail party given by publishing house Éditions Gallimard. He published his first novel, La Place de l’Étoile, with them in 1968, after having read the manuscript to Raymond Queneau. Starting that year, he did nothing but write.


Who is your favorite Noble Prize in Literature?




7 thoughts on “Book review: Suspended Sentences – I love France #153

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  4. Suspended Sentences was my introduction to Modiano, earlier this year. Wow. I fell in love there and then and that was only confirmed when I got hold of Night Watch a couple of months later. What a pity about the narrator! My next adventure will be to try and read a Modiano in the original French, as apparently his deceptively simple sentences are perfect for those who, like me, are rather out of practice.


    • so glad you discovered him! I really recommend Rue des boutiques obscures, Missing Person in English, which gave him his first literary award in France. I have no idea how good or bad the English translation is.


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