Today marks one week to go until the publication of Antoine Laurain’s latest novel, Red Is My Heart, translated by Jane Aitken. Laurain has published several award-winning novels which have been translated into fourteen languages, capturing the attention of countless readers. These include the brilliant The Presidents Hat, which is a nostalgic read for me as it was the first book I read as part of a book club! But I was particularly interested to hear that his latest novel was something a little different, as it is a collaboration with contemporary Parisian artist Le Sonneur. So, I was thrilled to be able to review this book ahead of its publication on the 18th January, and was keen to see how Laurain’s writing could be brought to life through the accompanying artwork.
As the title would indicate, this is a story of love, or more specifically, the pain that we feel when a relationship comes to an end, and the way in which we process these feelings of rejection, and the grief we feel at a love we have lost. This is something that stuck out from the opening page on which we meet our protagonist as he writes a letter to the woman who has left him. But after producing such a beautiful letter, he hesitates and writes a fake address. From here his mind begins to wander, will anyone see his words, what is this imaginary address like, and is it a home for them both? From this opening paragraph I became fully immersed in the mind and heart of this character’s story, and found it to be an engaging read throughout, as Laurain explores the beauty and tragedy of love, through a story that is wonderfully written.
The narrative is further enhanced through Le Sonneur’s art which accompanies the central character on their journey. The images are striking, owing to a black, red and white colour scheme which really stands out and captures your attention. The images are varied, from intricate Parisian streets and crowds of people, to a person alone at the bottom of a ladder, and two birds perched upon a telephone wire. This all added an extra depth to the story, allowing the reader to get a sense of the time and place as well as the emotions of its characters. I found it interesting looking through these images as I was reading, and thinking about my own interpretation of them. I liked how the use of shape and colour portrayed the vastness of a busy city, and in turn, how isolating that can be, particularly when you are dealing with the aftermath of a break up, the ‘what ifs?’ running through your mind. In addition to La Sonneur’s art, Laurain’s writing is also written in such a way that it adds to the visual elements of the story, with sections of writing broken up into fragments or meandering across the page, perhaps illustrating the state of mind of our protagonist as they navigate the world with a changing perspective.
From my review so far it may seem that Red Is My Heart is quite a sad read but whilst it explores some of the challenges faced it is also a story that contains hope, and the idea of healing from past relationships and being able to move forward, and that even in a world that can feel overwhelming, there is love to be found.
Red Is My Heart is to be published on 18th January 2022 by Gallic Books, with thanks to the publisher and Isabelle Flynn for providing a copy for review.