Title: Family Life (also known as A Family Affair)
Date Read: 1st February 2009
Available Online?: YES (although read for this review was the David Coward translation of the story in A Day in the Country and Other Stories (Oxford University Press)).
Briefly: Overweight, depressed and completely ingrained in the monotonous routine of his job as a government bureaucrat, Monsieur Caravan has little to look forward to in his domestic life either. Living in cramped conditions with his wife, two children, and aged mother, his life is dull, dull, dull. Things are about to get a whole different though, when an unexpected incident brings turmoil and drama into Caravan’s humdrum life.
Afterthoughts: What can I say? This is Maupassant at his absolute best when it comes to ‘comedy sketch’, although at first it doesn’t seem like that kind of story. I will say that Family Life lumbers on for much longer than it probably should have, but everything about the tale is just so well penned that it isn’t really an issue. Superb characters! Superb settings! And most of all, superb story-line!
Notable Quote: Caravan had brought his mother to live on the top floor, a woman so mean that she was famous for it in the neighbourhood, and so thin that people said that when the Good Lord made he had used her own parsimonious principles to do it with. She was permanently bad-tempered and not a day of her life went by without dreadful quarrels and outbursts of rage. From her window she screamed abuse at neighbours as they stood on their doorsteps, at women hawking their wares, at men sweeping the street and at children who, to pay her back, followed her at a safe distance when she went out, shouting: ‘Miserable ole bag!’
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.