Novella a Day in May 2022 No.14

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill – Dimitri Verhulst (2006 trans. David Colmer 2009) 145 pages

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill has been on my radar since Kate’s review four years ago – I’m slow but I get there in the end, hopefully 😉

It’s a fable, but a recognisably real one. The titular beauty lives with her husband “in a house that could have been lifted from a biscuit tin” on top of a hill on the outskirts of the remote town of Oucwègne, where there has only been one female baby in recent generations.

When her husband dies, the townsfolk – including the vet who doubles as the town doctor, the man who pays his local shop tab in full after decades, overseen by a cow who is mayor – expect Madame Verona to leave. Instead she stays, mourning her husband, waiting out her time and growing old with her memories.

“the trees had their rings; Madame Verona did not begrudge her skin its wrinkles, the signature of all her days.”

Until one snowy day, she burns the last of the logs her husband cut for her and descends the hill into the town, knowing she will not have the strength to return.

“She is counting on strength of will to die today”

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill has its share of whimsy but it also has a spikiness to it and it isn’t remotely sentimental. It’s about the different ways we live alongside grief, and how a life with a lot of sadness does not mean a life of misery.

“The one characteristic element with which she would summarise her eighty-two years of existence was that dogs had always sought out her company.”

11 thoughts on “Novella a Day in May 2022 No.14

  1. I read this four years ago?! That shows you’re a very good record keeper and that it’s almost time for a re-read for me – I do remember loving how it showed a way that we live with grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I should have just read that last quote first. I’d have added it onto the TBR without looking any further. But that said, your observation about a life with a lot of sadness not necessarily being one of misery certainly intrigues me.

    Liked by 1 person

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