So after nearly six weeks and six hundred pages, I finally finished Malevil, and my overall opinion of it is that it mostly sucked. I’m looking at the Amazon page for it now, and out of 17 reviews, 16 of them gave it five stars, and I’m wondering if we all read the same book.
I’ve been meaning to read this book for years; I always thought it would be interesting to read a post-nuclear war survival story from another culture’s perspective. What I didn’t expect was that that culture would be so rural that the fact that civilization had been destroyed didn’t change their daily lives very much. The story takes place in rural France around 1977, but some of the characters didn’t even have electricity before “the day it happened”. All had knowledge of farming, masonry, taking care of animals and all the other skills that you would expect characters to have to learn or re-learn in a modern post-apocalyptic novel.
The story takes place between a castle and a town. There is no scavenging, no treks to explore nearby cities for useful items, nothing even resembling converting a car to a wagon by removing the engine or any other use of “old world technology”. There is brief mention of the fact that the war was “unexpected” but that’s it. I don’t think the words “United States” or “Soviet Union” appear anywhere in the book. Aside from a few pages of worry about fallout, the entire story could have taken place in 1877 rather than 1977 with very little change.
For example, when the town threatens to send a priest to oversee Malevil (the castle), they elect the main character Abbe of Malevil in an effort to claim ecclesiastical superiority. As if anyone, when faced with the possible extinction of mankind, would give a shit about who claimed to be a priest and what power they supposedly wielded because of it.
I wanted so much to like this book but just couldn’t. Maybe the fact that it’s a translation didn’t help, or maybe I just don’t get the French way of thinking or doing things. But unless it’s your life goal to read anything and everything post-apocalyptic, I’d skip this one.