The Sky Above the Roof – Nathacha Appanah

Hey Loves!

How are we all? I am here to share with you today my first read of 2022 and it’s celebrating its publication day today too! How exciting. First of all, a huge thank you to MacLehose and Quercus for this early copy. Next, I can’t gush about this book enough. It’s small but, goodness, it is mighty. I hope you enjoy the review!

What’s it all about?
This novella centres around Wolf, a seventeen year old boy who steals a car in order to find his sister Paloma who left home over ten years ago. He’s unlicensed, on edge and veers onto the wrong side of the road, causing an accident. As a result, he is arrested, imprisoned and leaves his mother and sister to deal with the devastation that was caused. From this event – this one moment in time, this small novella reveals various viewpoints and voices all resulting in a novella full of poignancy and pain. In life, every action has a consequence. This novella explores that and the plethora of emotions that are caused by that.

‘She thought this name would bring him strength, luck, natural authority… there he is now, in the back of a police van, as we turn the page.’

The narrative then evolves to describe Wolf who clearly struggles and presents like a teenager who may be on the autistic spectrum. He muddles things up, mixes up time, words and actions. He sometimes listens but is usually observing the speaker to read their face. Yet the medical advice, confirms that Wolf is medically well and perfectly healthy. So why did he behave the way he did? Why steal a car and cause an accident? Why create the utter devastation for his mother and sister to resolve and live with for the rest of their lives?

For me personally, I felt the most sympathy for the mother, Phoenix. The turmoil she faces is arguably the most poignant part of the novella. She clearly is troubled and deeply vulnerable too. I’m also deeply interested in her name: will she rise from the ashes?

‘The day ends with the woman in a white nightdress waking, drenched in sweat. The image of her two children vanishing into the earth is still vivid and the distress she felt in her dream is there, in the pit of her stomach.’

Time doesn’t stop for any of us and with each narrative, time is ticking in the background. The impact on all involved differs and the consequences are also variable. However, what is clear is that everyone, literally everyone, is affected. Wolf, his life will never be the same again. Everything is internal with him – his pain, suffering, reasoning and angst. It’s questionable whether or not he will come back from this.

”Wolf makes his bed, not thinking about anything. Between the moment when he left the van and now, his heart has been closed.’

By the end of the novella though, lessons have been learnt and Wolf realises he isn’t innocent anymore and he will always have to live with the consequences of what he did. Whilst the novella starts with the literal prison, it ends with the prisons that we create around ourselves. It’s almost poetic.

Final Thoughts
This book is complex on so many levels – the time frame, the characterisation, the clear psychological struggles faced by this family. However, for me it’s been so difficult to write about because it’s so beautifully stunning that I don’t quite know where to begin. Hopefully I’ve done it justice. I can confidently say that it is nothing like what I’ve read before. I always have a soft spot for translated novels and this one is no exception. Translated by Geoffrey Strachan with his translator’s note at the start means that we get the explanation of the French title referring to a poem by Paul Verlaine. This too was sublime.

‘What have you done, who weep
Your endless tears?
What have you done, who weep
With youth’s lost years?’

As I say, this book is being published today so Happy Publication Day and enjoy reading!

See you next time for my next review.

Big Love xxxx

14 thoughts on “The Sky Above the Roof – Nathacha Appanah

  1. Hi Books and Bakes – thank you for sharing your review of The Sky Above the Roof. I find that short stories and novellas can be so moving even though they are shorter in length. That’s why I like short stories so much. Hope you are doing well on this winter night! Currently under a blanket ๐Ÿ™‚

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