RELEASED 20 JANUARY 328 pages | Hardback/ebook
Author Hervé Le Tellier
Publisher Michael Joseph
L’anomalie received great praise on publication in France in 2020 and won that year’s Prix Goncourt, and so an English translation (by Adriana Hunter) follows – mirroring a book that features in the story, also called The Anomaly, written by a frustrated novelist who commits suicide after finishing it.
This is one of many ordinary and not-so-ordinary people presented to us by Hervé Le Tellier, ranging from a spiky film editor to a professional assassin. All they have in common is that they took the same flight from Paris to New York in March 2021.
The book takes almost half its length to arrive at its premise, which is that an unexplained phenomenon copies the entire plane and its passengers, but they don’t land until June. This gets frustrating after a while, as it feels like the novel is opening over and over again. But the premise is good, and reminiscent of French supernatural TV series such as The Returned and The Last Wave: there’s no antagonist, just a group of people whose lives are rocked by something they can’t explain.
Once it kicks in, the narrative does become more compelling. Scientists try to puzzle out why it happened; philosophers and religious leaders question what it means for humanity; and the duplicated people try to adjust. Some are alarmed at having a twin with identical memories, some find it appealing. How can they all fit into the same world? Who gets to keep their homes, their jobs, their stuff?
Even more intriguing are those whose lives have vastly changed in such a short time – most notably Victor Miesel, the novelist who inherits a book he didn’t write and can’t relate to. It’s a novel full of ideas, and with so many characters to fit in, some of their stories feel a little perfunctory and the overall impression is of a novel without a middle act – but it’s one still very much worth reading. Eddie Robson
The novel’s been such a hit that a pastiche, L’anomalie Du Train 006 Pour Brive by Pascal Fioretto, came out last June.
Once it kicks in, the narrative does become more compelling