When Isabelle Flynn from Gallic Books got in touch to tell me about A Hundred Years and a Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea I thought it sounded just my kind of book. It is, and I’m delighted to share my review with you today. My enormous thanks to Isabelle for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.
Published on 11th June 2020 by Gallic Books, A Hundred Million Years and a Day is available for purchase through these links.
A Hundred Million Years and a Day
Stan has been hunting for fossils since the age of six. Now, in the summer of 1954, he hears a story he cannot forget: the skeleton of a huge creature – a veritable dragon – lies deep in an Alpine glacier. And he is determined to find it.
But Stan is no mountaineer. To complete his dangerous expedition, he must call on loyal friend Umberto, who arrives with an eccentric young assistant, and expert guide Gio. Time is short: the four men must descend before the weather turns. As bonds are forged and tested, the hazardous quest for the earth’s lost creatures becomes a journey into Stan’s own past.
A Hundred Million Years and a Day is a mesmerising story of nature, adventure and of one man’s determination to follow his dream, whatever it may take.
My Review of A Hundred Million Years and a Day
Stan is hunting for a rumoured dinosaur fossil.
I’m going to struggle a bit with this review because I have too limited a supply of superlatives to articulate what an absolute stunner A Hundred Million Years and a Day is. It is utterly flawlessly translated by Sam Taylor so that it wasn’t until I had finished reading that I actually realised it was in translation. The rhythms and flow of the book are sublime, natural and wonderfully written. I loved it unreservedly.
In essence, the plot is quite simple with Stan heading to the mountains with friend and colleague Umberto, guide Gio and assistant Peter, to search for a ‘dragon’ or dinosaur from an old man’s story, but that simplicity belies the depth of feeling, the uncovering of Stan’s past and childhood and the super depiction of humanity presented. I know it is going to sound ridiculous to say so, but I found reading an almost physically painful experience because I felt its emotion so distinctly. I’d love to say more about the literary nature of the writing, the hints that become clear as the narrative progresses and the sense of self-discovery, but I fear that would spoil the read. Let me just say they are fabulously woven into the story.
A Hundred Million Years and a Day is beautiful in its descriptions. The personification of the mountain illustrates just how completely Stan finds his dragon and the settings transport the reader to the heart of the action. I saw the beauty and terror of the mountain and the snow in all their glory as if I were standing alongside the characters on the mountain itself.
I found the characterisation pitch perfect too. Stan’s first person account is intimate, honest and moving. He’s egotistical, impatient, flawed and at the same time vulnerable, sensitive and lonely. His relationships with his parents and Umberto particularly show the reader just how much we are shaped by our parents and our past. I so wanted him to succeed in his quest because he was vividly real to me.
A Hundred Million Years and a Day is an enormously affecting narrative about life, loss and love that transcends the ordinary into a book that is one of hope and human understanding. It is, quite simply, intoxicating. I adored it.
About Jean-Baptiste Andrea
Jean-Baptiste Andrea was born in 1971 in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and grew up in Cannes. He is a director and screenwriter. He wrote his first English-language feature film Dead End in 2003, to critical acclaim. His first novel, Ma Reine, was published in France in 2017 and won the Prix du Premier Roman and the Prix Femina des Lycéens. For two years he travelled to more than 50 cities, in France and abroad, meeting readers, booksellers and librarians. Now he is leaving behind the cinema for literature.
About Sam Taylor
Sam Taylor is a former Observer journalist and the award-winning translator of novels including HHhH, The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair and Lullaby.