Margot and the Angels
What’s the use of parental good advice once the children have stopped listening? The advice says more about those who give it than those it’s meant for. Kristien Hemmerechts’s new novel Margot en de engelen starts five weeks after Margot, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Dave and Sofie, has left home with the entire contents of her bank account, leaving only a farewell fax in which she asks her parents to grant her a period of silence.
It’s hard for them: her father has always said that people need to lead their own lives (despite never managing to break free of the grip of his own mother) and is now driven mad by sorrow; while her mother has always impressed upon her daughter the necessity of talking things through.
Margot arrives in the English town of Hull where she meets two boys and decides to let the ferry go back without her; ultimately this leads to her desperate parents coming in search of her. Kristien Hemmerechts is an expert at disentangling apparently satisfactory relationships. She believes that most people live with romantic ideals adopted from advertising, movies, and a certain sort of fiction. Reality, often cruel, is generally concealed. But not here. Secret and improper desires are stripped naked and described, as are people’s supposed good intentions.
This novel is about the eternal tension between the illusions of the mind and the dictates of the body. In the last chapter Margot ends up in the company of a sect of angelic young people who delude themselves that they are modern Catharists. Before swallowing her fatal capsule, Margot thinks about how much better it would be to not have a body, to be liberated. And as suggested by the book’s cover, Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus, this innocent soul ends up being the only true angel.