THESE DIVIDING WALLS is a prescient debut novel by a striking new voice in fiction.
'A sensitive, necessary, brave book.' Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us
What building doesn't have secrets?
How much does anyone know of what goes on behind their neighbour's doors?
On a hot June day, grief-stricken Edward arrives in Paris hoping that a stay in a friend's empty apartment will help him mend. But this is not the Paris he knows: there are no landmarks or grand boulevards, and the apartment he was promised is little more than an attic room.
In the apartments below him, his new neighbours fill their flats with secrets. A young mother is on the brink, a bookshop owner buries her past, and a banker takes up a dark and malicious new calling.
Before he knows it, Edward will find himself entangled in their web, and as the summer heat intensifies so do tensions within and without the building, leading to a city-wide wave of violence, and a reckoning within the walls of number 37.
'It'll open your heart and mind.' The Pool
An engaging debut that throws light on a hidden side of Paris. - Woman & Home
Confident and brilliant - Lisa O'Donnell
This book played into my acute nosiness, throwing open the doors to the fictional lives of the residents of number 37 . . . It'll open your heart and your mind. It certainly did mine. - The Pool
Soulful - Good Housekeeping
Tender - Red Magazine
With the precision of a painter, Fran Cooper paints an unforgettable and unexpected portrait of Paris - Hannah Rothschild
This beautifully written debut is about love and loss - Prima
4.5?s These Dividing Walls is the first novel by British author and museum curator, Fran Cooper. Number 37 Rue des Eglantines is not in the fashionable, tourist-frequented part of Paris. It’s far back on the Left Bank, tucked in a warren of quiet streets, a block of apartments with two shops on the ground floor. It’s the place where Englishman Edward Rivers has come to escape. He’s staying in a tiny top floor apartment that belongs to his friend, Emilie. Her aunt Frederique is the first to welcome him and she recognises, almost immediately, the sort of loss from which he is running, having experienced it herself. Frederique has lived at Number 37 for most of her life. She knows everyone there, but perhaps not as well as she thinks: many of them have something to hide. Chantal and Cesar’s happy marriage might not survive the secret that Cesar has been keeping for months, a secret that sees him taking extreme action. Hairdresser Estella Marin, the flamboyant gardienne of Number 37, seems a mismatch for the very beige Augusto Marin, with her barely discreet affairs, and yet…. On the second floor, Anais Legrange is a young mother of three who is at breaking point, while her hard-working husband, Paul is puzzled at the change in their relationship. Fourth floor resident, Isabelle Duval vents her xenophobic frustrations online, completely unaware that, one floor up, her long-time neighbour Henri Lalande is actually a Muslim. Homeless Josef is often parked in an alcove across the street from Number 37. He watches carefully and perceives more about the building’s residents than anyone would believe. During a sweltering Paris summer, as racial tensions rise with the mercury, Number 37 have their own dilemma to deal with: Ahmed and Amina Laribi are about to move into the empty third floor apartment. Cooper’s structure is not unlike McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street; she melds that with Katherine Pancol-like French characters in a drama that features loss and grief, pride and prejudice, depression and insecurity, love and loyalty and friendship. As well as the main characters, sometimes the building itself has a role as narrator; certainly, the City of Paris and her denizens are a play a significant part. Cooper’s prose is often beautiful and her characters are easily believable. This is an outstanding debut novel from an author to watch.
Fran Cooper grew up in London before reading English at Cambridge and Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She spent three years in Paris writing a PhD about travelling eighteenth-century artists, and currently works in the curatorial department of a London museum. These Dividing Walls is her first novel.