Picardy, somewhere between 1990 and 2000. Imagine a little village, like all villages in Northern France with a church, a monument to remember the First World War and numerous small clay roads that cross the fields in every direction. In addition, there is the factory where almost all the men of the village work. Only men because the women didn’t work in the village only if it was necessary.
In this particular environment lives Eddy Bellegueule in a family that’s burdened by poverty, an alcoholic dad and a mom that didn’t really want children. Not the most ideal starting point for any child. Eddy has however another disadvantage: his posture, his way of talking and his walk are perceived to be weird, something wrong. The uniqueness of Eddy is somehow not accepted. From an early age he has to deal with verbal and physical abuse, which is immediately clear from the first pages of the book. In every possible way he tries to adapt and hide his homosexuality, but most of all he fights against it. He tries to become a macho man, a so-called fighter. This means fights, alcohol, trying to pick up some girls and vandalising the bus shelter where the local youth always come together in the evening. Still there is a way out for Eddy, he joins the school theatre. He tries to be appointed to a special drama school; it is a small path to flee.
Édouard Louis not only described in his book the oppression and struggle of Eddy but also gives a sort of sociological description of the working-class environment where he grows up. It gives the book a hard and rough edge, but it also tries to find an explanation of why the people think about homosexuality so negatively or the toxic masculinity which seems to be woven into the whole community in the village. The book gives some insight yet not a complete answer. Still, it gives the book something refreshing because similar books such as Call Me By Your Name depict a more bourgeoise or upper-middle-class view. It shows that the social-economic position of people also has an influence on the development of sexuality and identity. Sometimes it seems that the book was written in the 50s or 60s since the poverty and poor living conditions turned back the clock. The book is above all a reckoning of the past. Eddy Belleguele, was also the former name of Louis. It creates a firm and unnuanced story without any mercy, so don’t expect a feel-good love story, but rather a story of survival.
I finished the book within a few days. Probably because of the urgency that is present in the book, the story has to be written and read.