‘The Valentine House’ by Emma Henderson is set in the French Alps at Arete, a large chalet built by Sir Anthony Valentine in the late nineteenth century and used as a summer house by the family across several generations. In 1914, Mathilde, a local girl from the valley, is selected by Sir Anthony’s wife Lady Charlotte to work as a servant at Arete on account of her being one of the ‘uglies’ and therefore less likely to catch Sir Anthony’s wandering eye. Mathilde gradually becomes acquainted with the quirks of this strange English family until she is betrayed by Sir Anthony’s granddaughter Daisy. Decades later in 1976, Sir Anthony’s great-great-grandson George is visiting Arete with his cousins, continuing many of the Valentine traditions such as the outdoor physical challenges known as ‘paideia’. With Mathilde’s help, they finally uncover the mystery surrounding the fate of Sir Anthony’s daughter Margaret. Continue reading
Tag Archives: France
After a break from Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties last month, I have returned to reading translated fiction with ‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan translated from the French by George Miller. It is about a middle-aged Parisian author, Delphine, who is befriended by a woman known throughout only as “L.” who claims to be a professional ghostwriter. L.’s presence gradually takes over every aspect of Delphine’s life to the point where their close friendship turns into something far more sinister.
I really enjoyed reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet after discovering it through the Man Booker Prize shortlist last year. His 2014 debut novel ‘The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau’ which was also published by Contraband tells the story of Manfred Baumann, a loner who lives in the nondescript French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace and frequently dines at a bistro where waitress Adèle Bedeau works. When Adèle suddenly disappears one evening after finishing her shift, Manfred quickly comes under suspicion. However, after giving a false statement to Inspector Georges Gorski in which he fails to admit that he was the last person to see her alive, his life begins to spiral out of control. Continue reading
‘The End of Eddy’ by Édouard Louis is a semi-autobiographical novel set in a deprived rural community in Picardy in northern France. Translated by Michael Lucey, it is a coming of age tale about Eddy Bellegueule (the author’s real name) and his life at home and at school in the late 1990s and 2000s. Eddy is gay and struggles to conform to what is widely perceived to be an acceptable type of masculinity in the small village where he is expected to go to work in the factory as soon as he leaves school. His mannerisms are routinely mocked by his peers and his family, particularly his father who even chose Eddy’s name because it sounds American and more “tough guy”. ‘The End of Eddy’ garnered lots of attention in France because Louis published his debut novel in 2014 when he was just 21 years old. However, aside from Louis’s young age and the unflinching descriptions of Eddy exploring his sexuality, ‘The End of Eddy’ also deserves acclaim more generally for articulating the reality of social exclusion in modern-day France so convincingly. Many thanks to Harvill Secker for sending me a review copy via NetGalley. Continue reading
I first came across Georges Perec’s work at university through his first novel ‘Things: A Story of the Sixties’ which was by far the most interesting book I had to read for one of my French literature modules focusing on consumerism. I’ve had ‘Life: A User’s Manual’ on my TBR list ever since which is probably Perec’s best known novel published in 1978 and translated from the French by David Bellos in 1987. Continue reading
‘Blood Wedding’ by Pierre Lemaitre and translated from the French by Frank Wynne tells the story of Sophie Duguet, a nanny who is becoming increasingly forgetful and paranoid. When the child in her care Leo is found brutally murdered, she has no recollection of what happened and goes on the run fearing that she killed him during one of her frequent blackouts. However, it soon becomes clear that something very sinister has been causing Sophie’s alarming behaviour and changing her identity won’t be the solution to her problems. Continue reading
Translated from the French by Frank Wynne, ‘The Great Swindle’ is something of a departure for Pierre Lemaitre from his crime fiction series of novels featuring detective Camille Verhoeven. Originally titled ‘Au-revoir là-haut’, it won the Prix Goncourt in 2013 which is one of the most prestigious literary prizes in France. In the final days of the First World War, Lieutenant Henri d’Aulnay-Pradelle secretly shoots two of his own men in the back to make other troops believe they were killed by the enemy and provoke a final attack on the Germans, thus establishing his reputation as a war hero. However, Albert Maillard and Édouard Péricourt have witnessed his crime and are gravely injured when Aulnay-Pradelle attempts to kill them too. After the armistice, Édouard assumes the identity of another dead soldier and embarks on an elaborate money-making scheme with Albert. Continue reading