Anna Gavalda Je l’aimais 
Editions J’ai lu, 2002 

Here’s the list of words that I kept on a sticky-note in the front of this book because I’d looked them up in the dictionary more than once:
ivre (drunk),
nuque (nape of the neck),
étouffer (to smother),
frissoner (to shudder),
placard (cupboard),
écarter (to move away from), and
grenier (attic).

It’s not entirely misleading. Chloé and her father-in-law drink a lot, while talking about things to do with loving and leaving, while sharing a confined space.

(But there are a lot of words that I didn’t write down on a sticky-note. And Anna Gavalda’s novel is slim, its prose style bare: each word counts.)

Chloé’s husband, Adrien — Pierre’s son — has left her for another woman. A woman
Adrien is passionately in love with.

Chloé is devastated: furious and hurt and afraid. Pierre is overwhelmed by the intensity of her emotions.

The film brings this out brilliantly. The setting: the confines of the rough countryhouse in winter, the sense that her children are smothering her just when she needs that space for her grief.

One set of paired images — a close-up of one of her daughters beneath the surface of the bath, holding her breath with her eyes bulging simply-for-the-fun-of-it contrasted with close-ups of Chloé, struggling to contain her emotions — is particularly memorable.

Both the film and the novel mostly concentrate on the interior, on emotions that are felt but not expressed, or those which escape in small bits, unchecked and then reined in once more.

But the most memorable aspect of both book and film is rooted in emotions that have been too-long felt but unexpressed.

Chloé’s emotions have forced Pierre to confront an aspect of his own past — one integrally related to the situation in which Chloé now finds herself — and that which has been hidden for years is brought out into the open.

The film brings this aspect of the novel out with an immediacy; told in the novel only through Pierre’s memories, this plotline feels much more distant on the page.

Book and film complement each other nicely.  (And both are accessible in English: Someone I Loved, translated by Catherine Evans. Je l’aimais with subtitles.)

Have you read/seen it?