Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Reader for Hire

Marie-Constance has a wonderful voice and a love of reading. One day a friend suggest to her that she should offer a service reading to people in their homes. So she places an ad in the local paper and waits for the replies to come in. What kind of people will pay to be read to?

Surely you’re not just a reader, though?... I look him right in the eye and say: Yes, I am actually a reader. He releases his grip: OK, then, read.

I found Reader for Hire delightfully entertaining in rather a silly way. I’m not sure how much of a comedy it is supposed to be but it amused me no end. It starts off light enough but with a sense of seriousness as she is warned of the dangers of a young woman offering services in the home. The man at the paper is sure she will attract lunatics and perverts, but instead her first client is a disabled teenage boy, confined to a wheelchair.

The effects of her reading him a short horror story are not what she expected, but she finds her clients are getting something out of her reading, so she continues. As she collects more clients, some odder than others, she finds herself in some absurd situations. And then the police start to take notice of what she’s doing.

Oh, your voice! he interrupts me. It’s all down to your voice! It gets right into my bone marrow. I’ve never heard a voice like yours, Marie-Constance. It gives me shivers all over!

Originally written in French in 1986, much of the works she reads are likely to be more familiar with a French reader than they were to me. She starts to find familiarities with the texts and her situation. The book does include short passages taken from the books she reads from, so it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t know them. There is one bit from Marquis de Sade, so if you often find someone reading over your shoulder, beware!

The unpredictable workings of my job – surely to blame! – which consists of reading out loud things that are intended for silence. Where could that possibly end up?

Reader for Hire had been translated into English by Adriana Hunter for Peirene Press as part of their Chance Encounters series and will be available in paperback from 15th June 2015. To find out more about their subscription model head over to their website. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

2 comments:

  1. This looks really fascinating, it's a shame it has taken so long to be translated. Thank you for the lovely review, I've added it to my TBR list :-)

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  2. I do love Peirene books and this one sounds slightly odd, but no doubt great as they all are.

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