Originally published in France in 2013, The Age of Reinvention was a bestseller and made the shortlist for the Prix Goncourt. Two years later, Karine Tuil’s story of deception, identity and love has been published in the UK.
‘Let’s begin with his wound. Yes, let’s begin there. The last of the stigmata inflicted during a brutal upbringing that Samir Tahar spent his whole life escaping…’
In the first part of the novel we are introduced to Manhattan lawyer, Sam Tahar. Sam lives an enviable lifestyle. He boasts an impressive law career, a beautiful wife- who happens to be the daughter of a high profile family – and fame and fortune. However, all is not what it seems and Sam is not the person he pretends to be. This introduces Samuel Baron, Samir’s friend from law school. The pair were inseparable but when Samir flees to America he assumes his old friends identity to get where he wants to be.
‘The world is violent. Violence is everywhere…Love is violent too’
This deception of Samir’s is not the only thing that causes issues between the pair. There is also Nina, a woman who both men find irresistible who herself is torn between the two men. This tangled love story plays out throughout the novel alongside the more sinister consequences that arise from Samir’s hidden identity.
‘She is all too aware of the devastating effects of her impressive, alienating beauty’
It took me a while to get into the story and this in part was due to my dislike of the characters. They seem to be extremely arrogant, shallow and materialistic so I found it hard to have sympathy for them in the earlier half of the novel. Their attitude towards women was particularly quite alarming and their morals a little dubious! There was also quite a lot of information to take in to start with although this did provide interesting background detail on the characters. Tuil has also included footnotes containing snippets of information on numerous characters no matter how small their role may be. Whilst I am not a fan of footnotes I liked the idea of the reader finding out more about those individuals who are in the background but nonetheless have their own stories to tell.
‘Life is a fiction, each day a new chapter.’
The Age of Reinvention is predominately a tale of deception and love but it also touches on important issues that are representative of the modern world. Whilst I didn’t like Samir I could understand why he made the sudden decision to give a different name, a change so small and subtle yet had a huge impact on his life and that of those around him. There are questions raised here about identity. It is about different religions and cultures and how they are perceived, how they might be discriminated against. This is evident when Samir’s half brother comes to the attention of the authorities, putting Samir in the spotlight. These are the events that threaten Samir’s livelihood, and result in a suspenseful, powerful story.
‘Love was a tyrant, a totalitarian state that brooked no opposition’
I was intrigue by the premise of The Age of Reinvention with its promise of stolen identities and a complicated love triangle. Despite the fact it took me a while to get into it there are aspects of the novel that I found interesting and thought provoking. It is a powerful story about our complex world.