I'm Still Here by Clélie Avit

Translated from French by Lucy Foster. Published 14th July 2016 in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton. My thanks to them for my review copy.

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support... They don't realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she's there.
Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault's emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa's room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.
Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can't help feeling that she can hear his every word...
For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for...
And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives...

My Thoughts:

This book could be described as a modern day Sleeping Beauty that centres around our two main characters Elsa and Thibault. Elsa is in a coma and the Dr's are considering turning off her life support apart from she can hear what is going on around her and she is thinking clearly. Thibault is deeply upset when he stumbles upon Elsa's room, he is avoiding seeing his brother who is also a patient at the hospital. His brother has killed two young girls after drunk driving. What ensues is something of a love story like no other. 

I am sure that there is real heart to this original love story, that proved to be very thought provoking. It is about two people who for different reasons are trapped by the circumstances that surrounds both of their lives. Thibault is depressed and troubled and he begins to seek solace within the walls of Elsa's room. Elsa begins to enjoy the company of Thibault and looks forward to his visits. He treats her and speaks to her like a human being even though she is in a coma. 

The way that Thibault behaved when he was with Elsa raised some questions for me. I found this book quite disturbing in places and the ending a little predictable but all in all an interesting debut. I am afraid that I personally couldn't suspend quite enough belief to make this one work for me fully. That being said the author has managed very well to make the voices of her characters individual and able to portray the desperation of their emotions. 

Drawing on the visceral this book is very unique. The author writes with a sparseness that stops the story from being absolutely bleak. 

About the Author:

Clélie Avit was born in Saint Etienne in 1986 and grew up in Auvergne. She studied at the University of Lyon and her passions include mountains and dance. She trained to become a physics and chemistry teacher and a dance teacher. This is her first novel and she now writes full time and continues to teach contemporary dance. 

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