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Review: foreign fiction: Babylon; Strike Your Heart; Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead; And the Wind Sees All

Author: David Mills
Newspaper: The Times
Date: Sep 24 2018
URL: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/magazine/culture/review-foreign-fiction-babylon-strike-your-heart-drive-your-plow-over-the-bones-of-the-dead-and-the-wind-sees-all-kvw2khscg

While having nothing like Reza’s international profile, the French-Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb is a big deal across the Channel for her intense, brief, unconventional novels. Her latest, Strike Your Heart, translated by Alison Anderson, is typical.

An incisive examination of female relationships, it opens in the 1970s with the birth of Diane and her rejection by her beautiful, solipsistic mother. As she grows up, Diane turns to her grandmother to escape, and when she goes to university she devotes herself to her professor, Olivia. But Olivia turns out to be a treacherous monster. All the key relationships are deeply flawed. Far from being realistic (as a child, Diane has a psychological acuity and wisdom far in advance of her years), this vital and compulsive story is more like a parable of the damaged female condition.