Sunday, 4 January 2015

Review: The Suicide Shop by Jean Teulé

Book cover of The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule
Because who doesn't celebrate Christmas by reading obscure French novels about suicide?

Plot summary: Has your life been a failure? Let's make your death a success With the twenty-first century just a distant memory and the world in environmental chaos, many people have lost the will to live. And business is brisk at The Suicide Shop. Run by the Tuvache family for generations, the shop offers an amazing variety of ways to end it all, with something to fit every budget. The Tuvaches go mournfully about their business, taking pride in the morbid service they provide. Until the youngest member of the family threatens to destroy their contented misery by confronting them with something they ve never encountered before: a love of life.

I was hooked on this book after about three lines. Despite the fairly desperate-sounding title, The Suicide Shop is a light, fun, quirky read with a chatty tone about a heavy subject. Mr and Mrs Tuvache run The Suicide Shop (catering to all your deathly needs) along with their three children, Marilyn, Vincent and Alan. Unfortunately the latter just doesn't seem to be getting the, uhh... hang of it (Ha. Sorry.) due to his naturally cheery and upbeat disposition.

It has quite a dark tone of humour (obviously) and yet it still manages to be oddly respectful towards the dead. The concept of suicide itself isn't ridiculed and nor are the victims themselves, only the world that has become so dismal that its inhabitants have decided they may as well not bother existing. Click over to BBC News and it's hardly an unbelievable idea.

The characters are fairly flat, but then it's hardly meant to be an in-depth epic tome. They are all interesting and unique, however. My favourite was Marilyn, who sobs dramatically over her weight and her believed lack of beauty, and pleads with her mother daily to allow her to finally kill herself. Reminds me of a lot of girls I knew as a teenager, to be honest... (and yes, I completely understand that that's probably the point, thank you).

"Hello? Oh, it's you, Monsieur Chang! Of course I remember you: the rope, this morning, wasn't it? You...? You want us...? I can't hear" - the customer must be calling from a mobile - "to invite us to your funeral? Oh that is kind! But when are you going to do it? Oh, you already have the rope round your neck? Well, today's Tuesday, tomorrow's Wednesday... so the funeral will be on Thursday. Hang on, I'll ask my husband..."
She speaks into the receiver again: "Hello? Monsieur Chang...? Hello...?" She hangs up as she realises what's happened. "Ropes may be basic, but they're effective. We ought to think about recommending them more often..."
Just a quick note on the translation - it's excellent. Obviously I can't comment on the accuracy, but translations (especially of more obscure works) tend to be stilted and generally just sound odd. The Suicide Shop is a huge change from the usual though - it flows to such an extent that I'd believe it was originally written in English. I wish all French works could be translated by Sue Dyson.

It's a very short novel, only 169 pages, but I feel it would get old quite quickly if it were any longer. I'm not a massive fan of the ending as it was quite predictable, but it worked. It would make a good indie-style film though. Oh. It is an indie-style film. Called it! :)

To conclude, I really would recommend this book. It's a quick read, but an amusing one, especially if you're in the mood for some dark humour and societal satire.

Read another review of The Suicide Shop at The Friendly Shelf. 


  1. That quote's amazing - I've never heard of this at all but if the rest of the book is like that, I want it.

    The film looks pretty good too, actually. A bit odd, obviously, but like the kind of thing that would be even better after a glass of wine!

    1. I find that most things are better after wine...

  2. I will have to remember this one next time I'm in the mood for that kind of book.

  3. 1) Didn't know it was a film.
    2) I wonder if you'd like Harold and Maude?
    3) I really don't know why I haven't read this yet. Except that it might not have been a good idea a few months ago and all...


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