12 June 2016

Constellation by Adrien Bosc (transl. Willard Wood)

Summary from Goodreads:
This best-selling debut novel from one of France’s most exciting young writers is based on the true story of the 1949 disappearance of Air France’s Lockheed Constellation and its famous passengers

On October 27, 1949, Air France’s new plane, the Constellation, launched by the extravagant Howard Hughes, welcomed thirty-eight passengers aboard. On October 28, no longer responding to air traffic controllers, the plane disappeared while trying to land on the island of Santa Maria, in the Azores. No one survived.

The question Adrien Bosc’s novel asks is not so much how, but why? What were the series of tiny incidents that, in sequence, propelled the plane toward Redondo Mountain? And who were the passengers? As we recognize Marcel Cerdan, the famous boxer and lover of Edith Piaf, and we remember the musical prodigy Ginette Neveu, whose tattered violin would be found years later, the author ties together their destinies: “Hear the dead, write their small legend, and offer to these thirty-eight men and women, like so many constellations, a life and a story.”

Constellation was the book that I almost grabbed straight out the publishing rep's hands during the Book Club Speed Dating event at BEA.  The Venn diagram was almost a circle....

It is a lovely, spare, and almost plotless novel. Bosc created a meditation not only on why this particular airplane crashed but what incremental mistakes led to the crash and who lost their lives.  He also went beyond the crash itself to look at those lives tangentially connected with the flight and strange intersections of fate. I felt the novel was a little autobiographical, too, but who was commenting: the author or a fictional first-person narrator?  This translation is excellent.

Dear FTC: I received a review copy of this book during an event at Book Expo America.

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