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Summary

The Years is a personal narrative of the period of 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present - even projections into the future - photos, books, songs, radio, television, and decades of advertising and headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and written notes from six decades of diaries. Local dialect, words of the time, slogans, brands, and names for ever-proliferating objects are given a voice here. The voice we recognize as the author's continually dissolves and re-emerges. Ernaux makes the passage of time palpable. Time itself, inexorable, narrates its own course, consigning all other narrators to anonymity. A new kind of autobiography emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective. 

On its 2008 publication in France, The Years came as a surprise. Although Ernaux had, for years, been hailed as a beloved best-selling and award-winning author, The Years was in many ways a departure: both an intimate memoir written by entire generations and a story of generations telling a very personal story.

©2019 Dreamscape Media, LLC (P)2019 Dreamscape Media, LLC

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  • C.
  • 20-09-21

A beautiful novel

A tour de force which encapsulates a life time, from the varying point of view of a female character in the third person, The Years is not a story, but an interface between continuously changing individual perception and culture.

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Strange combination of voice and edition

This is an audio version of the US edition of this title and yet, oddly, the audio is narrated by the quintessentially UK-voiced Anna Bentinck. Bentinck is quite a mellifluous and plummy English voice and so having her say sidewalk, 'ass-holes' (rather than, if she undoubted would if she were to use the word, 'arseholes' -- the UK translation actually has something far ruder), high school, fall (for autumn), just jarred. Not sure why they didn't choose a US actor instead if they were going to use the US translation/edition or, conversely, use the UK edition/translation if they were going to use Bentinck.

That said, Bentinck is generally very good, but not flawless. She offers a strange mispronunciation of 'palimpsest' as 'palimset' (actually a word used several times because the narrator applies it to a feeling of having multiple parts of a life overlaid in a moment of emotional reverie), says 'emancipated' when she means 'emaciated' (a sort of verbal 'typo'-type malapropism that is very inappropriately applied to the bodies of AIDS victims in the text), and says 'parents' for 'partners' which is a simply baffling error.

These are minor points, however, and anyone not using the audio in combination with a printed copy will not notice them greatly, although the idea that the narrator's grown-up children come home 'with different parents' may raise a frown.

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  • Elin VanD
  • 10-05-20

Mixed Feelings

This book is impossible to rate. It is a phenomenal cultural history 1940-2017, (France, but relevant to USA and Europe). Many insightful observations, and captures the mood of those years. The intentionally non-personal point of view makes it hard to listen to, if you like a good story. Yet it is fascinating at the same time and hard to put down. Well written. Well read.

2 people found this helpful