by Nancy Huston
FAULT LINES follows four generations starting with the present and working its way backwards. Each quarter of the novel is narrated by a different six-year-old, all bearers of the same birthmark, who tell their stories and give a child’s eye view of sixty five years of history that spans three continents.
The character who holds this ambitious novel together is Erra, famous singer without words, who in the first chapter is an old lady. She is also the great grandmother of Sol, twenty-first century Californian boy, at six years old already addicted to pornographic internet images of sex and violence, the monstrous end product of a Nazi policy that has left its ugly mark on four generations. As the first narrator, he tells his story with blood-chilling precocity.
Scroll back to Randall, Sol’s father. It is 1982 in New York and his mother, Sadie, drags her husband and son to live in Haifa to further her obsessive research into her family history. Here Randall learns at first hand the terrible legacy of Israel in Palestine.
Twenty years earlier and Sadie describes her unhappy childhood living in Toronto with her repressive grandparents while she yearns with heart-breaking intensity for her absent mother, the charismatic Erra. The paradise when her wish is granted and she goes to live with her mother and new step-father, however, is short-lived.
Finally, six-year-old Kristina, later to become Erra, tells her story. Living in Germany in the final throes of the third Reich, as the war rages around her stolid Munich home, she discovers that her family is not all that it seems. As the awful truth becomes apparent, the ‘fault lines’ that run through the novel crack open to reveal the damage that is handed down through the generations.
FAULT LINES won the Prix Femina and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. It is translated by Nancy Huston herself from the French. It is short-listed for the Orange Prize, which is due to be announced on June 4.