A literary sensation in France, this debut novel tells of the torrid love affair between Sarah and the unnamed narrator, a young mother who has become overwhelmingly smitten. The relationship will upend both women's lives.
Here’s a novelty: a book about love as utter abandonment of the self, love as capitulation, love as not only obsession but possession, which manages not to be overwrought. ... Delabroy-Allard succeeds by keeping things simple and using repeated phrases to layer the story ... The second half of the book is even more satisfying than the first, as the narrator flies to Italy, stays with a friend, and keeps moving to prevent the settlement of thoughts she would rather not face. The sentences and sections become longer, reflecting the scurrying activity of her mind ... The persuasive translation by Adriana Hunter does occasionally let an awkward word poke through its straightforward language ... But these don’t diminish the pleasures of a book that reads at times—this is high praise—like a new iteration of Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (absorbing passion, illness, separation) and that moves impressively from the chaos and noise of love, to silence and solitude, like a spun coin settling.
The hyperbolic emotion of this novel sometimes tips into cliché, but Delabroy-Allard insists on holding space for an unfiltered expression of pain. Melodramatic expressions are interspersed with straightforward pieces of wisdom ... Hunter’s translation highlights the inertia and cycling of the absolutist thought patterns of love, with simple language that moves out of the way of its subject. This poetic and mystifying debut draws blood.
To read They Say Sarah is to understand what it means for a novel to be 'breathtaking' ... French writer Pauline Delabroy-Allard has created, in her literary debut, a deeply impressionistic novel which thrusts the reader from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. The impact is stunning; from the opening chapter the momentum doesn't let up ... Delabroy-Allard's use of language is magnificent (and Adriana Hunter's translation does a superb job of maintaining the effect). The accelerated sense of momentum is conveyed by an unfettered use of present tense. Long run-on sentences are coupled with staccato-like short, repetitive clauses. Time is condensed; seconds stretch into paragraphs and days merge in mere sentences. The sweeping emotional effect is a reminder of the potency of language ... the beauty of They Say Sarah is that it lashes its vividly erotic prose to a thoughtfully constructed literary framework, producing by the end of its scant 160 pages an elevated statement on the human condition ... The book's vivid emotional lure masks a deeper statement on our collective inability to achieve—let alone balance—love in a contemporary world where most of us just struggle along plagued by a faintly numb sense of always desiring more.