Summary and book reviews of The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis

The End of Eddy

by Edouard Louis

The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis X
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
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    Readers' Opinion:

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy.

"Every morning in the bathroom I would repeat the same phrase to myself over and over again ... Today I'm really gonna be a tough guy." Growing up in a poor village in northern France, all Eddy Bellegueule wanted was to be a man in the eyes of his family and neighbors. But from childhood, he was different - "girlish," intellectually precocious, and attracted to other men.

Already translated into twenty languages, The End of Eddy captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town. It is also a sensitive, universal portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own. The result - a critical and popular triumph - has made him the most celebrated French writer of his generation.

An Encounter

From my childhood I have no happy memories. I don't mean to say that I never, in all those years, felt any happiness or joy. But suffering is all-consuming: it somehow gets rid of anything that doesn't fit into its system.

Two boys appeared in the hallway, the first tall with red hair, and the second short with a hunchback. The tall redhead spat in my face How do you like that, punk.

The gob of spit dripped slowly down my cheek, thick and yellow, like the noisy mucus that obstructs the throats of old people or people who are ill, with a strong, sickening smell to it. Shrill, strident laughter from the two boys Look, right in his face, the little pussy. It is dripping from my eye right toward my lips, ready to enter my mouth. I don't dare wipe it off. I could; I'd only have to lift my sleeve. It wouldn't even take a second, a tiny movement, to prevent the spit from coming into contact with my lips, but I do nothing for fear of offending them, for fear ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It can be hard to read scenes such as 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. 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 country 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 work through its orientation towards the future.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (712 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The best moments of this good though certainly dispiriting book are those in which we sense that better things await the protagonist in a world far beyond his window.

Library Journal
An autobiographical first novel that made Louis a star in France and an international sensation, this work is occasionally repetitious but ultimately deeply affecting.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Excellent ... this concise novel adroitly captures the downstream effects of reactionary rural culture, heightened by the rise of hard-right ideology and the destabilization of the working class in contemporary Europe, granting its reader an extraordinary portrait of trauma and escape.

Booklist
Starred Review. A seamless, universal portrait of the experience of growing up gay and gradually coming to accept oneself.

Author Blurb Adam Haslett, author of Imagine Me Gone
A bracingly pitiless account of the psychic and physical violence that lies at the root of masculine identity. Louis's remarkably visceral story of growing up queer in working class France quickly transcends its setting precisely because it delivers us into it with such emotional force.

Author Blurb Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
Èdouard Louis speaks of violence, both social and familiar, with tremendous force and feeling. Revelatory, queerly tough, as intellectual as it is impolite, The End of Eddy is a book to shake you up.

Author Blurb Edmund White, author of A Boy's Own Story
The End of Eddy is lean and poignant and masterfully tells the tale of growing up gay, poor, and bullied. No one has told this story as eloquently.

Author Blurb Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
Like a cannonball spilled off the side of a ship, Édouard Louis makes straight for the deeps. The End of Eddy is heart-crushing, soul-stabbing, astonishing, exhilarating. Édouard Louis is exactly the kind of writer we need right now: honest, fearless and, yes, tough.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The End of Eddy – A Publishing Phenomenon

Édouard Louis' The End of Eddy was originally published in French in 2014, when the author was just 21. Since then it has sold 300,000 copies in France and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The French title gives an extra dimension to the story: En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule translates more literally to Finishing off Eddy Bellegueule. In an enlightening interview with the Paris Review, Louis says that "Eddy Bellegueule" is in fact the name his parents gave him. (Whether he means the name on his birth certificate or a family nickname, I'm not sure.) Thus, the title suggests that his father and others want to finish Eddy off because he is seen as unacceptable, and that Eddy longs to do away with his childhood self to ...

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