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A mini-review: Henry Bosco, Malicroix by Henri Bosco, translated by Joyce Zonana (New York Review Books, 2020).

The protagonist, Martial, has grown up cosseted by his adoptive family and bourgeois convention, spending his free time in a greenhouse where he grows flowers with a combination of scientific precision and sentimental appreciation. On being named the heir of his mysterious (indeed, near-mythical) uncle, he must find within himself something entirely different. That something might be called wildness, and it is as you would expect a kind of freedom—but a freedom born of solitary devotion to a single small place, which demands of him a severe duty.

“Bosco’s novel is a work of tremendous lyricism, but his meditations can also grow ponderous,” observes Kirkus Reviews. “It is a slow and quiet novel given to long descriptions of wind and rain and the Rhône.” But what appears to be stylistic convention serves to make the point of the novel. Martial must inhabit his small island not only physically but spiritually before he can come into his inheritance—an inheritance that is largely the island itself, but also something much greater.

It is one of those books that I only really understood after finishing it and am going to have to read again. I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it is yours, and you have a very large cup to last the slow passages, I recommend it.