Little Rebel by Jérôme Leroy trns. Graham Roberts

Today I am delighted to join the blog tour for Little Rebel by French author, Jérôme Leroy. My thanks to publisher Corylus Books for inviting me to join the tour and for providing an advance copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 01 July 2021
Publisher: Corylus Books

About the Book

Divided along so many social fault lines, a city in the west of France is a tinderbox of anger and passion.

As the tension grows, things go badly wrong as a cop is killed and a terror cell is scattered across the city. A school on the deprived side of the city is caught up in the turmoil as students, their teacher and a visiting children’s author are locked down.

Making his first appearance in an English translation, Jérôme Leroy gives us a subtle and sardonic perspective on the shifts taking place in politics and society in this disturbing novella.

My Thoughts

This is quite the quirky little novella. Told in the voice of a first person omniscient narrator, we navigate our way through a series of complicated but ultimately connected vignettes which all build towards what is, in hindsight, a surprising and perhaps a little shocking conclusion. We meet many different and very diverse characters along the way, from cops, to teachers and students, to terrorists, and whilst each episode leads smartly into another, exploring the connectivity of their lives, it is difficult to see from the off just what those connections might be.

This is a story exploring terrorism and fanaticism. Not in a particularly extreme way, although what comes to pass is ultimately very dramatic and catastrophic, but by looking into the minds of those who would commit acts of terror and those who would stop them. We look at their motivations, their thoughts, their intentions, but always a step removed as their lives are narrated to us rather than us necessarily being present in their action. It’s almost like a literary Big Brother episode and I’ll admit took a little getting used to at first. It is a conversational, matter of fact styling that makes this novella unique and perhaps influences our reactions to the main players in ways that being present in the action might not.

Speaking of the characters, there weren’t many you could get behind. The arrogance, the misogynism, the dismissive attitudes that are on display make it hard to feel an empathy toward any of them. When it comes to the teacher and his students, they are a strange and typically teenage bunch, many of whom I’d happily of slapped and were a good reminder as to why I would never have made a good teacher … It is hard to grow to like the characters as we are with them for such a short space of time, but just when you think you are getting to like or dislike someone, you are pretty well guaranteed to have them, or the story, surprise you.

This is a novella, so by design a quick read. The narration and translation is spot on, helping the story to flow and retaining the tension as well as the detachment that this quite cinematic style requires. This is the first book I’ve read by this author but I’d certainly be intrigued to read more and if you’d like to read a quick, quirky, thought provoking and surprisingly edgy novella, this could be the one for you.

About the Author

A prolific author of novels for both adults and young adults, essays and poetry, Jérôme Leroy is from Rouen. His work has appeared in a number of languages, but Little Rebel is his first work to be translated into English.

About the Translator

Originally from Liverpool, Graham H. Roberts has been living in the northern French city of Lille since 2003. When he’s not translating French crime fiction, Roberts teaches at a number of HE institutions in the Lille area and in Paris. In his spare time he enjoys writing and his first novel – also a work of crime fiction – is due for completion some time in 2021.

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