My enormous thanks to Jasmine Marsh at Hodder for sending me a copy of The Balcony by Jane Delury in return for an honest review.
The Balcony will be published by Hodder and Stoughton on 26th July 2018 and is available for purchase here.
What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us?
To those who have ventured past it over the years, this small estate in a village outside Paris has always seemed calm and poised.
But should you open the gates and enter inside, you will find rooms which have become the silent witnesses to a century of human drama: from the young American au pair who developed a crush on her brilliant employer to the ex-courtesan who shocked the servants, and the Jewish couple who hid from the Gestapo to the housewife who began an affair while renovating the rooms downstairs.
The house has kept its inhabitants secrets for a hundred years. Now, they are ready to be brought to the light. . .
My Review of The Balcony
One house with ten interwoven stories spanning over a century.
When I began reading The Balcony I hadn’t actually read the blurb and was initially thrown by the fact that I had what seemed to be totally discrete and unconnected stories. My preconceived ideas were quickly challenged and I found myself immersed into a lyrical and enchanting world based around one house and its occupants.
The quality of Jane Delury’s writing is so sophisticated and actually quite tense and disconcerting so that I felt reading The Balcony was like having something tantalising and beautiful just out of my grasp. I loved the atmosphere of the writing and could appreciate its depth and richness but I can’t quite define why it is so impactful. Having the one house as a backdrop gives a coherence and balance that is perfectly poised.
The way in which history swirls on the page, with links between the stories being uncovered a bit like fairy tale treasure, is spellbinding. Sometimes it is the characters who reverberate through the tales, sometimes a theme and sometimes something tangible like peg solitaire or Russian dolls. Indeed, the Russian dolls are an apt metaphor for the structure of the stories. Each is different and unique in its own right but connected and understandable in relation to the others.
And the themes depicted here are universal ones that permeate humanity; love, hate, death, birth, jealousy, survival, war, identity are all here, making for a book that a reader can return to several times over and still find something new and relevant.
The Balcony was unexpected. Each story stands alone and is satisfying to read, but taking the collection together, seeing the connections intertwine and having those moments of clarity and understanding elevate The Balcony into a truly mesmerising read. I thought it was intelligently written, beautifully constructed and fascinating. I really enjoyed it.
About Jane Delury
Jane Delury grew up in Sacramento, California and attended UC Santa Cruz. She spent her junior year abroad in Grenoble, France, and she returned to the University of Grenoble after UCSC to complete a master’s degree and to teach English. Following several years in France, she moved to Baltimore to study fiction in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, Five Points, Narrative, and other publications.
She has received a PEN/O. Henry Prize, a Pushcart Special Mention, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Award, a VCCA fellowship, and grants from the Maryland State Arts Council. She holds a BA in English and French literature from UCSC, a maîtrise from the University of Grenoble, and an MA from the Writing Seminars.
She is an associate professor of creative writing and English at the University of Baltimore, where she chairs the School of Communications Design.