The One that Makes the Controversial Intimate

Colombe Schneck, Dix-Sept Ans (French, 2015)

I set about to review a book about abortion today, but I don’t mean to be controversial, I just read it and I want to review it. I didn’t choose the topic especially for today either, it just sits on my pile of finished books and it was time.

But.

I can’t help but feel the weight of the recent events, namely the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Believe me, typing these words feels so weird I had to correct so many typos.

Anyway.

People make choices. Not the ones you expect. Not the ones you believe in. Not the ones you would have made if you were them. But you’re not them. They choose because of their personal circumstances. Because of their beliefs, of their education, of their knowledge or lack thereof. They choose because they think it’s best at a given time, or just because it’s the lesser of two evils. It’s hard not to judge. Not to make assumptions. But still one must try. And books certainly help wear the other person’s shoes.

Colombe Schneck’s book is intimate and political. It’s a very short memoir (less than 100 pages) of her abortion when she was 17 (in the 1980s) and how it shaped her life ever since. She was finishing high school, carefree and rather careless. She thought it could not happen to her. She was a teenager from the upper class, immature and a bit irresponsible. She was idealist, she had been taught that boys and girls were free and equal. She could not have the baby. It was just not possible, not thinkable. Her parents were quite liberal, so they didn’t blame her but they didn’t talk to her either. Doctors and other adults didn’t question her choice; it was all very cold and technical, and she didn’t get to talk it through. Nor did she get the chance to talk about it afterwards, but she says she can’t help but think about it ever since. Even if the choice felt easy to her at the time, the consequences still linger in her head and in her heart. The life she had after she made that choice was different from what it would have been otherwise. She also talks about the legalization of abortion in France, the long fight to finally reach it and the continuous challenges and doubts ever since.

Schneck is a journalist, she writes smoothly and she knows how to go deep and emotional too. Her style is without flourish. She tries to be honest about her 17-year-old self, without being nostalgic or patronizing. I really want to discover her other books (and in fact, at this hour, I have already another on my nightstand).

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One thought on “The One that Makes the Controversial Intimate

  1. Pingback: The One about the Two Salomes | Smithereens

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