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Review of Loyalties by Delphine De Vigan

January 18, 2019

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Review of Loyalties by Delphine De Vigan

This short novel by the bestselling French author of No & Me and Based On A True Story describes the lives of four characters in Paris, with the narration moving between them in alternating chapters. Through the voices of Theo, Matias, Hélène and Cécile, the author explores the continuing influence a dysfunctional household can have on young people, in a gripping and thrilling story.

Theo is a 12-year-old torn between his neglectful father – who no longer functions, stays in bed all day and leaves Theo to fend for himself – and his bitter mother, who refuses to even hear her son utter his father’s name when he’s in her house.  He spends his time moving between the two houses, determined that no one should find out the truth of his circumstances. Along with his friend Mathis, he’s found solace in drinking, and the two expend all their energy on procuring alcohol, getting together at school to drink in their secret hiding place behind a cupboard. Mathis secretly isn’t as keen on drinking as Theo is – but he craves Theo’s friendship as he also feels a distance between himself and his parents.

One day she finds something terrible on William’s computer which makes her question all she knows about him

Meanwhile, their teacher Hélène suspects that all is not well with Theo, but it’s hard for her to help him as he’s so reluctant to talk to anyone about his problems. Hélène knows all too well what it’s like to come from a rough household, as her own father was abusive towards her and contemptuous of her academic aspirations. When she calls Theo’s mother in for meeting, however, it has repercussions for her own position at the school and her career.

We also hear from Cécile, Mathis’s mother. She grew up in a working class household in a provincial town, and her father was an alcoholic. So she was thrilled when she met her husband William, Mathis’s father, who is a wealth middle class lawyer, and who took her away from her family for a new, better life in Paris. However, one day she finds something terrible on William’s computer which makes her question all she knows about him. Aware that her son is drinking, and worried about his future, she disapproves of his friendship with Theo, and secretly starts seeing a psychiatrist.

As well as being an intriguing thriller, Loyalties insightfully examines how misplaced ideas of loyalty, and deeply held secrets, can often hold us back and leave us trapped in lives we cannot escape from. 

Written by Ruth, Marketing

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