Book review: Three Days and a Life

trois-jours et une vie audioTrois jours et une vie
Three Days and a Life

Thanks to iRead Book Tours, I was recently offered a free credit to listen to a book through eStories.
When I browsed their titles, I was really excited to discover some audiobooks in French, and recently released at that. When I discovered Pierre Lemaitre’s latest novel was available, Trois jours et une vie, my choice was made.
I have listened to a few audiobooks narrated by volunteer readers on Librivox and the like, but I believe this is actually my first experience with a commercial audiobook of a recently released work in my native language. With an author I enjoy a lot and a great French actor as the narrator, Philippe Torreton, I had all the ingredients of a wow experience!

three-days-and-a-lifeA few days before Christmas and Lothar, the 1999 major storm that devastated many northern regions of France, Rémi, 6 year old, disappears. No one knows what happened to him, except the reader, who even knows right away who killed him, by  accident, after an emotionally disturbing event: Antoine, 12 year old, otherwise a nice kid, rather shy and lonely, a bit depressed, who usually stays out of trouble.

But you need the whole book to know how Antoine will experience the investigation, how he will react to guilt, and grow up with this dark shadow and heavy weight on his past, how this accident is going to impact later events and his whole life.

His parents are separated, and he loves his mother dearly. He wants to be sure she’s happy and strives not to trouble her. What will happen to her if/when she discovers her son is a murderer?

And this is what the novel is all about, not to guess who the killer is, as in most thrillers, but what’s going on in the mind of a young killer, who didn’t even intend to kill. Which makes the book pertain to the noir rather than the thriller genre.

This is not the story of a crime per se, but rather of a fault, if you consider it on the level of human justice. It’s not about how Antoine got there, but where he can go from there.

Lemaitre is masterful (I know, too easy word play) at making fabulous connections between events within his novels, at leading together to the end data slowly interspersed throughout the book. Here between the original crime and later elements in Antoine’s life. As a reader, you never know how things will take a dramatic turn.

And the ending is fabulous. You basically have to wait for the very last line to get a satisfactory answer.

I really enjoyed the amazing tension, both on Antoine and on the reader, as the crime can never be forgotten.

The setting is extremely well described: a small village, quite characteristic of provincial France, with its usual social tensions. With great portraits of normal profile inhabitants, their interactions, their suspicions, their solidarity also during the catastrophic storm, and how one may react to miscellaneous news items.

La rumeur est une sauce fragile. Elle prend ou elle ne prend pas.
Chapter 6
Rumor is like a tricky sauce. Either you wreck it or it spreads nicely.
= the translation is mine.

When you use the word provincial in French literature, you can’t but think about Monsieur Bovary. Interestingly enough, Antoine will condemn himself to the limited and provincial destiny of a country doctor, not unlike Charles.

And there’s also humor and satire, to diffuse the tension, like for instance the Christmas night scene and the priest’s sermon (chapter 8).


As I said above, it’s the first time I was experiencing a French professional narrator. The choice of the great actor (theatre, movie, TV) Torreton was perfect. His register and tone of voice are on target to convey the tension Antoine is going through.
He is also great at adopting different voices for other characters.
Short sound effects at the end of each chapter add to the suspense.
As an extra, I enjoyed hearing Lemaitre’s own voice, as he is the one reading the acknowledgements in this audio version, plus the recording ends with a fascinating interview on the process of narrating books, between the author and his narrator, a good friend of his.

I recommend eStories, their app worked great, the sound was excellent, and they have a nice selection of audiobooks.
French audiobooks, this is the one thing that my public library does not offer. Otherwise, my library has an amazing choice of audiobooks, through 3 databases, all for free, and you can stream them from home. Why would you pay so much very month, even $11.95 is way too much for me, when your library has all this for you?

If you read French, I highly encourage you to read this book right away. The English version will come be released on July 13, 2017 at Quercus/MacLehose Press.

Note that parts of this review were inspired by a wonderful interview of the author on the awesome weekly literary program on national French TV. Watch it here in French.

VERDICT: You are twelve, you killed a young friends of yours by accident. What will become of you? Masterful noir portrait of a young killer’s mind, and life in a typical French provincial village.

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trois-jours et une vie audio

Author: Pierre Lemaitre
French publication: 6/8/2016
by Audiolib
Duration: 6H21
Mystery / Thriller / Crime / Noir


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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this audiobook free of charge from eStories.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

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