The Balcony

Written by Jane Delury
Review by Val Adolph

Set in a village near Paris, The Balcony is a collection of short stories about a manor house and the people who have lived there from 1890 to the present time. While the framework is a narrative of place, it is the range of characters who give it life. The author portrays her characters with masterful understatement. She almost makes us read between the lines to understand the emotions driving their movements and reactions. We see her people failing to understand each other: willfully, casually, neglectfully, and purposefully. And we see the results, sometimes understated, but often devastating. These results play out instantly or incrementally across the years.

This book also takes a very individual look at recent French history, each story demonstrating the effects of changing times on people busy trying to live their lives. Newly-minted attitudes and sensitivities illustrate and illuminate the differences marking life in France over the years. However, the stories do not seem to come together as a novel. The author appears most comfortable within her genre of short fiction. While we observe some of the characters in more than one story, there seems little meaningful connection from one story to another. Each of these individual stories is complete in itself, each looking at the problems facing the changing generations in France. The most vivid stories are those detailing the suspicions and hatreds of wartime.