Summary and book reviews of The Balcony by Jane Delury

The Balcony

by Jane Delury

The Balcony by Jane Delury X
The Balcony by Jane Delury
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 1, 2019, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Emily Isackson

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A century-spanning portrait of the inhabitants of a French village, revealing the deception, despair, love, and longing beneath the calm surface of ordinary lives.

What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us? Set in a small village near Paris, The Balcony follows the inhabitants of a single estate-including a manor and a servants' cottage-over the course of several generations, from the Belle Époque to the present day, introducing us to a fascinating cast of characters. A young American au pair develops a crush on her brilliant employer. An ex-courtesan shocks the servants, a Jewish couple in hiding from the Gestapo attract the curiosity of the neighbors, and a housewife begins an affair while renovating her downstairs. Rich and poor, young and old, powerful and persecuted, all of these people are seeking something: meaning, love, a new beginning, or merely survival.

Throughout, cross-generational connections and troubled legacies haunt the same spaces, so that the rose garden, the forest pond, and the balcony off the manor's third floor bedroom become silent witnesses to a century of human drama.

In her debut, Jane Delury writes with masterful economy and profound wisdom about growing up, growing old, marriage, infidelity, motherhood - in other words, about life - weaving a gorgeous tapestry of relationships, life-altering choices, and fleeting moments across the frame of the twentieth century. A sumptuous narrative of place that burrows deep into individual lives to reveal hidden regrets, resentments, and desires, The Balcony is brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.

AU PAIR

In June of 1992, I left Boston for France with everything in front of me. For the next two months, I would be an au pair to Hugo and Olga Boyer's daughter, Élodie, at their country estate near Paris. The position came to me through my advisor at Boston University, where I'd just finished a master's degree in French and where Hugo would join the faculty in the fall. As Olga explained to my advisor, who asked me if I was interested, she and Hugo needed a jeune fille to help Élodie practice her English and to watch her mornings while Hugo worked on his book and Olga prepared the house for their departure. I would have a large, sunny room on the top floor and my afternoons and most of the weekends off. "Paris, with all of its delights, is only a brief train ride away," Olga wrote to me in French, her hand- writing large and baroque. "Élodie is an easy child, and her father and I are not monsters." With the money I'd make, I could spend a third ...

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!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Delury challenges our assumptions by providing a messy, complicated view of place fraught with individual emotions and stories rather than a cohesive narrative of an inherently benevolent or evil location. In this sense, the estate reflects the characters that tell its story: complex, flawed human beings with both positive and negative qualities. This sweeping generational drama is perfect for readers looking for a modern take on the gothic novel.   (Reviewed by Emily Isackson).

Full Review Members Only (805 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The prose is tight and each stories are told well; this is a satisfying examination of the various and irrevocable ways lives intersect

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. In an assured debut, a delicate fretwork of lives, relationships, and secrets is built up over the course of a century-and linked by a manor in an ugly French village...Strikingly deft and nuanced; a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Alice McDermott
With the assurance of a seasoned pro, Jane Delury spans decades, adopts a multitude of voices, and explores with the keen-eyed sensibility of Elena Ferrante or Claire Messud marriage, infidelity, motherhood, aging, money, greed, and the workings of fate. A complex and utterly engaging debut.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan
The Balcony is sweeping, suspenseful, rich with surprises and eerie atmosphere. Jane Delury arrives on the scene of her debut with a sensibility fully formed and a breathtaking array of writerly gifts at her command.

Author Blurb Andre Dubus III
Jane Delury's gifts as a writer of fiction are in such abundance here, it is difficult to know where to begin: her characters - each and every one - whether male or female, young or old, French or American, wealthy or just barely surviving, a child of the 20th century or one-hundred years earlier - are living, breathing human beings I came to love and, in some cases, to mourn. Her landscapes are rendered as deftly as an impressionist painter's, and the pacing of each narrative in this exquisitely rendered novel-in-stories is downright masterly. But, what I admire most about The Balcony, is the depth and range of its inherent humanity. I adore this book. It is a true work of art and a most impressive literary debut.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
From the opening pages of The Balcony I was enthralled by Jane Delury's picture of Benneville and by her expansive sense of character. In ways both profound and moving she shows on page after beautiful page how her characters live inextricably in a time and a place. A stellar debut.

Author Blurb Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks
The Balcony is a delightful literary page-turner in the best sense of the word. I loved these characters, and the way Jane Delury has woven them together is wonderfully surprising, heartbreaking, and elegant. In terms of 'smart books about going abroad', it's up there with The Vacationers and Helen Walsh's The Lemon Grove. I was sad when it ended-always a good sign.

Reader Reviews

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!

Beyond the Book

Drancy Internment Camp

Although only a small portion of The Balcony takes place during World War II, its effects on Benneville and the estate affect the arc of the story and its characters. At the beginning of the novel, Brigitte, the au pair, learns that the current owner of the estate, Olga, had Jewish parents who moved there during the Occupation. While they thought they would be safe in the country, they were arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Drancy.

The Drancy Internment Camp Drancy Internment Camp served as a concentration camp in occupied France, located in Drancy, a northern suburb of Paris. Initially, the Germans seized the public housing structures in 1941. When French police began arresting Jews that summer, Drancy housed them until March of 1942 when the detainees were ...

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!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Balcony, try these:

  • Peculiar Ground jacket

    Peculiar Ground

    by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The Costa Award-winning author of The Pike makes her literary fiction debut with an extraordinary historical novel in the spirit of Wolf Hall and Atonement - a great English country house novel, spanning three centuries, that explores surprisingly timely themes of immigration and exclusion.

  • The Women in the Castle jacket

    The Women in the Castle

    by Jessica Shattuck

    Published 2018

    About this book

    Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    And The Ocean Was Our Sky
    by Patrick Ness
    Patrick Ness has developed a reputation for experimental literature executed well, and his latest, ...
  • Book Jacket: Let It Bang
    Let It Bang
    by RJ Young
    Every interracial love story is an exercise in complications. R.J. Young and Lizzie Stafford's ...
  • Book Jacket: A Spark of Light
    A Spark of Light
    by Jodi Picoult
    The central premise of A Spark of Light involves a gunman holding hostages within the confines of a ...
  • Book Jacket: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
    by Hank Green
    As one half of the extremely popular YouTube duo "Vlogbrothers" (the other half being his brother ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A Ladder to the Sky
    by John Boyne

    A seductive, unputdownable psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Severance

Severance by Ling Ma

An offbeat, wryly funny, apocalyptic satire that is featured on more than twenty 2018 "Must Read" lists!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Ain't O U T F L 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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.