Salt on our skin by Benoite Groult

Here is a review of the above book by one of our members:

This novel was chosen as a way of introducing the group to a French author. This was a novel the chooser had first read in 2009 and had found it to be a story that resonated with her, and the general consensus was that this was an extremely well-written story, enjoyed by all. However, we all agreed that when we first read the dust jacket we were all concerned that this would be a rather ‘scandalous’ text in the ’50 Shades of Grey’ vein; but we were all wrong!

This was a very ‘real’ story of a love affair between two very different people that spans the years from their late teens up to their 50s. There is some quite detailed description of their sex lives but this is real sex not the idealised ‘swinging from the chandeliers’ sex that many novels seem to describe. The author manages to keep a sense of realism and humour (‘soggy chips’ spring to mind) throughout, which we all appreciated. We also felt that this sense of realism comes across so well because of the quasi-autobiographical nature of the novel.

A lively discussion followed about the importance of sex in the novel, and a consensus was reached that whilst it was an important factor in the lives of the two main protagonists, this was only because of the time that passes between their meetings; in the end it is only a part of what binds them together. We also discussed the elements that separate the pair: George (without an ‘s’) comes from a well-off family living in Paris, and becomes a highly-acclaimed academic; whilst Gavin remains a ‘simple’ Breton fisherman (albeit a successful one). Again, the author very cleverly manages the tensions that these differences bring about and this was very much evident in the approach each takes to the trip to Disney. For some of us, George’s reactions very much mirror our own!

The author has produced some well-rounded characters, and whilst we did not all like George, we appreciated her need for love, and we loved the way Gavin’s character developed through the novel.

There was some debate regarding the title, as in the original French, ‘Le Vaisseaux du Coeur’, there are many meanings and we wondered why the editors had felt it necessary not to offer a more literal translation. The same issue arose regarding the name of the male lead; all the other characters retained their original names whilst his was changed from Gauvain to Gavin. That said, this was a novel we could all engage with and one we enjoyed and would recommend.

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