Édouard Louis’s The End of Eddy is a brisk and brutal roman à clef about a white gay teen growing up in rural 1990s France. Alcoholism, racism, violence, and impugnable choices abound. Gross and upsetting things happen in riveting ways. Yet its ending is oddly uplifting. A bestseller in France, its young author is now regularly called upon by popular media to explain the advent of French populism and the alleged moral stagnation of France’s white underclass.
If this reminds you of 2017 Go Big Read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, you’re not alone. The New York Times among others has positively compared The End of Eddy to Vance’s memoir. And it *is* like that book, but uglier and less self-congratulatory. Like Vance, Louis credits his individualism and self-ascribed moral difference with facilitating his path from rural white poverty to cultural elite. That sentiment might rub some folks the wrong way, but by telling his story with visceral simplicity, Louis makes it real, raw, and hard to turn away. An excellent though emotionally tough read.