BookBrowse Reviews The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The End of Eddy

by Edouard Louis

The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis X
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2017, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 208 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


In Louis' highly autobiographical debut novel, an adolescent boy seeks to escape poverty, bullying and homophobia in his small town in northern France.

The End of Eddy has been a publishing phenomenon in Édouard Louis' native France, where it has sold several hundred thousand copies (see Beyond the Book). Set in roughly the late 1990s, it's a brief but unrelenting novel about growing up gay and poor in a small factory town in northern France. The story is largely autobiographical although it is difficult to tell which elements are borrowed from the author's life and which ones are fictional.

Eddy Bellegueule has what Louis calls "a tough guy's name" thanks to his father, who is a fan of American television shows. That first name "Eddy" is tough, anyway, especially because it's an unusual nickname in French. However, his last name, Bellegueule, means "pretty face," and from the start Eddy disappoints his father by having effeminate mannerisms he can't seem to control. His father hopes to get him interested in soccer and his sister tries to set him up with her friend Sabrina, but neither attempt is any use. In middle school Eddy is bullied by two boys who call him "fag," spit on him, and even knock his head against a brick wall.

It can be hard to read scenes like this, or the one where Eddy has his – not entirely consensual or wholesome – sexual initiation. But there is also something cathartic about them, particularly since readers learn early on that Eddy makes it out of this situation ("years later, when I arrived in Paris and at the École Normale…"). It helps to know that Eddy will have a life beyond this painful one. Also, I think it sparks in the reader a desire to find out what happens next. I could even see this book becoming the first installment of a series, perhaps in the vein of Edmund White's autobiographical trilogy about coming of age as a gay man (starting with A Boy's Own Story in 1982).

Moreover, Eddy never appears as a helpless victim; in fact, with great psychological acuity, Louis pinpoints those times when, in his desperation to appear normal and throw off the accusations of being gay, Eddy has tolerated his tormentors rather than telling on them.

I had to keep other kids from thinking of me as someone who gets beaten up. That would have proved their suspicions: Bellegueule is a fag 'cause he gets beaten up (or the other way around, it didn't matter). I thought it would be better if I seemed like a happy kid. So I became the staunchest ally of this silence, and, in a certain way, complicit in this violence.

Ironically, as a young teenager, Eddy is quick to denounce other homosexuals; he recognizes this as his own futile attempt "to deflect suspicion" and "to transfer my shame."

Being poor is another key source of embarrassment for Eddy. His family lives in a moldy house with nothing but thin sheets of plasterboard and curtains to demarcate rooms, and they get provisions from a food bank. The whole village seems rather backward – people have poor dental hygiene for instance – and patterns of violence and teenage pregnancy perpetuate themselves. Eddy's father is a belligerent drunk, and soon his older brother is too, as if he's inherited an inescapable family curse. His mother bore her first child at 17 and now her two pastimes are smoking and watching television. "I like to have a good time, I don't pretend to be a lady, I am what I am, ordinary," she defends herself. It's intriguing to encounter familiar "white trash" stereotypes in a novel set in another country, and serves as a useful reminder that the poor face the same challenges no matter where they live.

Yet the title reflects the narrator's determination to be done with others' conceptions of who he is or should be – the passive prey, the effeminate disappointment versus the longed-for macho male, the deprived backwater boy – and find his own way in life. As wrenching as this coming-of-age story is at times, it escapes the trappings that plague similar works through its orientation towards the future. It's easy to sympathize with Eddy's pain and longing to escape, and equally easy to hope with him that there will be happier days after he's "put an end" to the old Eddy.

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster

This review was originally published in May 2017, and has been updated for the May 2018 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everything Inside
    Everything Inside
    by Edwidge Danticat
    Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer, and Haiti looms large as a presence in this ...
  • Book Jacket: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket: Marilou Is Everywhere
    Marilou Is Everywhere
    by Sarah Elaine Smith
    "The point is that at that moment in my life," writes the narrator of Sarah Elaine Smith's debut ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Yale Needs Women
    by Anne Gardiner Perkins

    A tale of courage in the face of arrogance that remains eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson

A story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Chase Darkness with Me

How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

S S A C A Big S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.