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A curious novel set in FRANCE

26th May 2023

Fowl Eulogies by Lucie Rico, a curious novel set in France. TR: Daria Chernysheva.

A curious novel set in France

Paule has travelled to SW France to oversee to her deceased mother’s estate, which includes a chicken farm. She is seduced into staying much longer than anticipated, getting to know the feathery flock as she ponders life and her relationship with her mother.

Her mother opted to raise the classic Faverolles, but she decides she will raise the Crèvecoeurs. As the days pass, she singles out chickens, they are made individual through names – Debut, George, Harold, Charles… and certain chickens catch her eye. One – Aval – becomes a pet who sleeps in her bed, others are invited into the house to roost on the sofa. Most, however, are summarily despatched and packaged, bearing a little penned eulogy, summarising their life. The words appear on the packet and this quirky take on selling chicken meat is a great hit at the local market.

Back home Louis is waiting for her, he is an architect, and Paule decides to relocate the whole operation to an urban setting, establishing a curious chicken hub – designed by Louis – in their home town. Her modus operandi for selling her produce seems to work well until she finds her meat compromised – big city ruthlessness can simply swallow and regurgitate artisanal methods in the quest for wealth, through-put and financial gain.

My goodness, this was a strange read. It is beautifully written and well translated and flowed incredibly well. As a non-meat eater and someone who keeps chickens, I did struggle with the level of violence, mitigated I suppose by the passion that Paule clearly felt for some of her fowl. Chickens are individual little personalities and although the author captured that very well, there is a visceral element that threads its way through the story that can make it hard to read.

A curious novel set in FranceYes, it will stay with me, because the storyline has power and strategy but then I pondered to whom I would recommend this short novel – it would need to be someone who is familiar, I think, with the dynamics of chickens brought together en masse and someone who can be seduced by the cute idea of chicken biographies, contrasted with episodes of wholesale slaughter of these compelling little beings.

This book is accurately described as “disturbing, compelling, heartbreaking – and like some great magic trick – utterly convincing” (as stated on the cover).

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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