Book review: Constellation – I love France 193



Adrien Bosc
Willard Wood
Other Press

US Release date:
May 10, 2016
also available as ebook
Historical Novel


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To be honest, I had not heard of the book nor the plane Constellation, before going to BEA last May. But I had received many great books from Other Press, so I knew I could trust it to be good. And it is.
On October 27, 1949, the plane Constellation left Orly, Paris, for New York. But it didn’t reach its destination. Instead, it crashed in the Azores archipelago. There was no survivor.
On board, among 34 passengers, were famous French boxer Marcel Cerdan (Edith Piaf’s lover!), and Ginette Neveu, a young violin virtuoso. Edith had begged Marcel to come and see her sing in New York.

The book is a bit like The Bridge of San Luis Rey, though relying a lot on real facts.
Chapters alternate between details about the plane and stories about the passengers, why they were on the plane, and also about a few other people who were supposed to be on that flight and ended up not. When your time is up…

The writing is simple and dense, to the point. There are sometimes beautiful passages, for instance on the sea in chapter 7.

There’s an interesting follow up story about Neveu’s violin in the last chapter.

The author plays with the name of the plane and the theme of fate and how it may be written in the stars. Alluding to experiences of synchronicity, he raises the notion of necessary chance or objective chance.
In a daring way, Bosc is trying to make sense and see the beauty of a “planned order” in the ugly chaos of tragedy. I found this passage on coincidence and fate very powerful:

The simultaneous occurrence of these two events… forms one of the many pervasive objective chances, invisible to us until they are brought together, in many ways like those stars that twinkle in the night sky and are clumped into constellations by the eye and the mind. The numbered and linked points in a coloring book. A strained coincidence or the workings of fate, who is to say, and yet the game of temporal co-occurrences yields the most astonishing associations.

I think we could say this is a typical French novel, so close to nonfiction, as many novels are right now in France, right in between fiction and facts, with a very blurry line to differentiate them. Through a dramatic event, it invites us to a deep reflection on life and fate.


Roman historique, quoiqu’il soit difficile ici de faire la part entre faits et fiction, sur la catastrophe du Constellation survenue en 1949. J’ai beaucoup aimé la réflexion que mène l’auteur sur le sort.

VERDICT: Short novel based on a plane crash. A great meditation on fate, it manages to generate positive thoughts on the background of a major tragedy. A welcome voice of hope for our time.


This best-selling debut novel from one of France’s most exciting young writers is based on the true story of the 1949 disappearance of Air France’s Lockheed Constellation and its famous passengers.

On October 27, 1949, Air France’s new plane, the Constellation, launched by the extravagant Howard Hughes, welcomed thirty-eight passengers aboard. On October 28, no longer responding to air traffic controllers, the plane disappeared while trying to land on the island of Santa Maria, in the Azores. No one survived.

The question Adrien Bosc’s novel asks is not so much how, but why? What were the series of tiny incidents that, in sequence, propelled the plane toward Redondo Mountain? And who were the passengers? As we recognize Marcel Cerdan, the famous boxer and lover of Edith Piaf, and we remember the musical prodigy Ginette Neveu, whose tattered violin would be found years later, the author ties together their destinies: “Hear the dead, write their small legend, and offer to these thirty-eight men and women, like so many constellations, a life and a story.”


Adrien Bosc

Adrien Bosc
was born in 1986 in Avignon.
the winner of the prestigious
Grand Prix du roman
de l’academie francaise
and a best seller in France,
is his first novel.

 Eiffel Tower Orange

What’s your favorite novel featuring planes?

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free from Other Press at BEA in Chicago, 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 counted for the following Reading Challenges

New-Release-Challenge2016 French Bingo 2016 logo

2016 HF Reading Challenge Button 2   New Authors

Books in Translation 2016


10 thoughts on “Book review: Constellation – I love France 193

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