In a quiet Parisian street, off the beaten track, is apartment Number 37. The residents go about their daily lives, rarely speaking to each other despite living in close proximity. Anäis is lonely and struggling with being at home bringing up her three young children whilst her husband Paul is at work. Cesar and Chantal seem to lead a very normal, conventional life bur Cesar is keeping a large secret. Frèdèrique lives in on her own and has a bookshop on the ground floor, and the concierge Madam Marin runs a hairdresser and a secret night life. Into this mèle of people arrives Edward, trying to escape the aftermath of a family tragedy back in England. During the summer the dynamics of these residents shift, the walls that divide will begin to crumble.
These Dividing Walls is a very topical in its look at the troubles facing France and other countries are facing at the moment. Fran Cooper doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics of racism, religious hatred, terrorism, unemployment in this book. Through the lives of the residents of Number 37 we see how their lives are effected by these issues.
The characters are very diverse; the colourful Madam, Marin, the quiet Anäis, the conventional Vincent’s, all come together and show no matter your age, religion, background and politics you all face the same problems life throws at you. Reading this novel does make the reader feel very voyeuristic, as we see close up the lives the people live, we are party to their secrets, their fears and their hopes for the future. We are part of the intimacies of their relationships and life and how they deal with the issues raised in this book. The characters also add humour, in some of their characteristics and how they live their daily lives.
Fran Cooper’s writing really captures the Zeitgeist of the moment. She shows great insight and understanding of the human condition. This is an erudite and engaging read, that shows a different Paris far removed from the romantic image portrayed in the holiday brochures and magazines. This is a darker Paris, where there is menace and hatred in the suburbs. This is a insightful and entertaining read