Girls Closed In

By Ami Sands Brodoff

A review of Girls Closed In by France Theoret

Published on October 1, 2005

Girls Closed In
France Theoret

Guernica Editions
$15.00
paper
116pp
1-55071-206-3

In the aptly titled Girls Closed In, France Théoret vividly evokes the thwarted passion of a shy sixteen-year-old at a Catholic boarding school for prospective teachers in 1950s Quebec.

“I know that I am not a normal person and my life is not easy,” begins the nameless narrator, who idealizes solitude yet craves connection. Trapped inside the cage of her consciousness, she is only able to view the object of her longing, Yolande, through the projection of her own fantasies. “I transferred a …number of images from fiction … onto her,” she tells us. “She matched some idea I wanted to realize.” Yolande is physically there, yet inaccessible and elusive.

Théoret’s deft structure cocoons individual feminine consciousness within the concrete cubicle each girl inhabits alone, like a series of nesting boxes, inside the formidable walled school. The narrator, given her feminine condition, must be by definition anonymous. Trained to lead a conventional feminine life and perpetuate established mores, she possesses no outlet for her gifts. And there is no way out.

In this intentionally claustrophobic novella, we are allowed only tantalizing glimpses into other characters and an outside world. Girls Closed In forces both narrator and reader to gasp for air, light, space.

Théoret achieves her intention. She sets out to portray the loneliness of a complex girl trapped inside the “theatre” of her own thoughts. Though feminine solitude offers the possibility of a rich interior life, complete isolation leads to boredom, emptiness, even madness. Ultimately, the narrator’s plight evokes Rilke’s panther which sees only “a thousand bars” and no world. mRb

Ami Sands Brodoff's latest book is the collection of stories, The Sleep of Apples, a finalist for the International Book Awards, and forthcoming as an audible book with ECW Press. She is at work on a new novel, Treasures That Prevail.  

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