The Author
Olivia Rosenthal is a french writter, novelist and playwright. She was born in 1965 in Paris. She studied in Jules-Ferry high school (1975-1982) and did a preparatory class in Henri-IV high school. Then, she got into the Ecole Normale supérieure in 1984, obtained an aggregation in modern literature in 1987 and a doctorate in 1992. She was elected a literature lecturer in 1993 in Rennes University. Since 1999, she teaches at the University of Paris III. She created with Lionel Ruffel and Vincent Message one of the first masters of literary creation of higher french education.

the book cover

The Book

« Mécanismes de survie en milieu hostile » is a bildungsroman and a thriller written by Olivia Rosenthal and released in 2014.

The novel begins with a fantastic story which turns into a nightmare. Then, we are immersed in the thought of a young girl who is completely confused after a family tragedy. Follow the story in a countdown with an endless and oppressive game of hide-and-seek. There are also others action which challenge the woman. She is confronted with her deepest fears: death, silence, mourning… She is facing the hostility of the outside world which obliged her to create coping mechanisms.

A distinguishing feature of this book is the alternation between the main story and an almost scientific story, written in italics. The link between the both story is deep and implicit and it’s very baffling.

This is one of my favourite book for several reasons : First, the original content and the change in stories. I have learned unexpected things thanks to this book and you should read it to discover that. For example, what I remember is a passage about the decomposition of bodies. It seems to be murky, but it was truly interesting. Despite this disgusting subject, it captured me. After reading this book, we question ourselves, how could we have act in this situation ? That also sends us back to metaphysical questions, our relation about death, childhood, bereavement mixed up in a scientific analysis.

While reading this novel, we are totally lost, destabilized, absorbed in a foreign world, questioning ourselves about life and death. It’s a puzzle to put together and the end enable us to stop stressing, to stop the suspense. Everything becomes highlighted.
Olivia Rosenthal, through this work, shows us our fears and our anxieties (such as death, confinement…) to learn how to survive and to cast our demons out. She tests her reader with destabilizing situation and involved him with a first person narrative.

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