By Marie Darrieussecq
*** Publication date 25 Oct 2018 ***
I am a huge fan of dystopian novels, especially when they don’t initially appear dystopian. Our Life in the Forest is a tale of a world where people have spare parts. Spare parts in jars, spare parts in living, breathing humans.
Viviane writes us a journal. A journal of her life living in the world as a “Generation” child. Living in the world where she has a cloned twin that is used for spare parts. Parts that will go to Viviane as she needs them. The story begins with Viviane explaining how her twin, Sissy, came to be with her in the forest. It then takes us back to the beginning. To her life before the forest. To her life before knowing she had a twin.
It’s a well woven story. Translated from the French novel, it has overtones of France, but really this could take place anywhere in the world. This world where cloning is the rule, not the novelty. This bizarre world where Viviane is a trained counselor, or shrink. She helps people try to make sense of their lives, when she can’t even make sense of her own. We meet her dog (cloned) and one of her patients, better known as The Clicker. He trains the robots to think.
This novel is very reminiscent of Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”. It is well written and entirely plausible in its tone, which is sometimes lost in dystopian themes. Viviane is someone that can be related to – bored with her job, her life – wanting more. Her little bit of happiness seems to be with her twin, Marie.
Far from being a happy novel, it is an interesting trip through another time and place similar to but different from our own. The life in the forest is a tough one, but it’s a story of perseverance in spite of circumstances. A story of survival in a harsh world.