Review by Dolores Maund.
In the forward, Samira Sedira, an Algerian born French woman, explains that her novel is loosely based on a mass homicide committed in France in the recent past. While this crime was not reported as being motivated by racism, she maintains that she believes it was. She goes on to discuss how, due to a sudden change in her circumstances, she was temporarily forced to work as a cleaning woman, an experience which gave her an insight into the nature of unequal social class relations. For this reason, before beginning People Like Them, I assumed that racism and class differences were to be central themes in her novel. Therefore, on finishing the book I was somewhat perplexed to note that racism seemed not to have played a significant part in the story, if any at all. Certainly, the insidious effect of unequal social class relations throws some light on the motivation of the murderer, but it is only one influence amongst an array of others.
People Like Them is set in a small village in France and tells the story of a normal decent man whose accumulated disappointments in life burgeon to the point where in a lunatic frenzy he kills a family of five. Contrary to what one might expect of a novel which deals with such a disturbing topic, it is a testament to Sedira’s capacity as a writer that the book is deeply absorbing and without melodrama. The characters and their relationships with one another are quite superbly and convincingly drawn. Furthermore, the descriptions of village social life provide an effective way in which to reveal the values and attitudes of the locals and at the same time the milieu into which the newcomers – the family which is murdered – chose to settle. That People Like Them is told from the perspective of the de-facto wife of the murderer gives the book its emotional force and complexity. First of all, that she has known the murderer intimately since his youth allows for a detailed teasing out of the various influences in his life which culminated in the tragedy. Furthermore, she is perfectly situated to witness the ruin brought about by the tragedy. In addition to the death of the five family members, the lives of the murderer’s daughters, his de-facto wife, his parents and friends are left utterly shattered, not to speak of that of the murderer himself. People Like Them is Samira Sedira’s first novel and a highly accomplished one at that. It is a thought-provoking book which will undoubtedly leave a deep impression on readers, many of whom will eagerly look forward to any book she might write in the future.
'Disturbing and powerful - I loved it' - Le la Slimani, author of Lullaby
'Icy and chilling... In sharply drawn sentences, Sedira summons the beauty of a small French village, and the shocking acts of the people inside it' - Flynn Berry, author of the Reese Whitherspoon Book Club pick, Northern Spy
Lullaby meets Little Fires Everywhere, this intense, suspenseful prize-winning novel explores the darker side of human nature - and the terrible things people are capable of.