This Little Family by Inès Bayard
Life is going well for Marie. She and her husband, Laurent, live a comfortable life in a large apartment in the eleventh arrondissement in Paris. Laurent has a good job at a big law firm and Marie enjoys her work at a bank, where she feels appreciated by her clients and colleagues.Comfortable and secure, and ready for family life, the couple begin to try for a baby. But not long afterwards Marie experiences a shocking encounter which threatens to derail their plans completely, and her world slowly starts to fall apart.Less than two years later, the family’s apartment is cordoned off by police tape as forensic officers examine a horrific scene in the family apartment. Three bodies around a dining table. Marie, Laurent and their little toddler, Thomas, in his high chair. All three of them have been poisoned by Marie.
We open with a scene of devastation - Marie has killed her husband, her infant son, and herself; poisoned them all at the dinner table. Marie sits in her chair ramrod straight, the baby’s head on his plate, the husband on the floor. Why would a loving wife and mother do such a thing to her family?
Soon, we are pushed backwards through time to see the lead up to this tragic event, and how Marie came to take this decision. It’s harrowing, it’s traumatic, and it’s so so dark. Bayard makes some excellent commentary, and poses subtle questions to the reader on moral issues, social expectation, and how others accept us.
Bayard explores what makes women women; not the male ideal, but the female experience and independence of choice. She shows us Marie’s persona and power being stripped away from her, and makes some stunning comments on pregnancy, and how an unborn baby is often, if not always, placed in a higher position of priority than the mother, as though she were merely a walking womb.
It’s a difficult read, made so by Bayard’s raw and stark writing style. Despite the obvious emotion affecting each of the characters, we read a stark, factual account of events. It mirrors Marie’s mental state, that simplistic, monochromatic outlook on life and tragedy that can happen after trauma. This is how things are, and this is what I must do, this is what I will do. It only adds to the horror.
A truly awful yet important tale of consequence and chaos converging after trauma. It spoke to me as a woman, left me numb, and reminded me of the importance of speaking out, no matter what people may think.