French contemporary fiction

Cover image for People Like Them by Samira Sedira (transl Lara Vergnaud

People Like Them by Samira Sedira (transl. Lara Vergnaud): An unthinkable crime

I wasn’t at all sure I’d read Samira Sedira’s People Like Them. It’s published under Bloomsbury’s crime imprint and I’m a crime watcher rather than a crime reader but it was the quote from Leila Slimani about its exploration of racism which made me think again. Based on a true story, Sedira’s novella is about …

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Older Brother by Mahir Guven (transl. Tina Kover): A tale of two brothers

Apart from Karim Miské’s Arab Jazz I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Paris’s banlieues which is partly what drew me to Mahir Guven’s Prix-Goncourt-winning debut. Older Brother explores life in these areas, synonymous with poverty and dissent, through two brothers and their Syrian taxi-driving father, still grieving his French wife. Despite the carefully …

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The Braid by Letitia Colombani (transl. Louise Rogers Lalaurie): Take three women

Letitia Colombani’s The Braid is one of those elegantly structured novellas that manages to pack a great deal into fewer than two hundred pages. Three women’s stories intersect in a way that none of them can imagine when the book begins. They will remain unknown to each other yet each will have played a crucial …

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The Tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel (transl. Euan Cameron): Death, grief and hope

If you haven’t yet come across Philippe Claudel’s books you may know his work from I Loved You So Long starring Kristin Scott Thomas. Ranging from Parfums, a sensuous fragrance memoir, to Monsieur Linh and His Child, one of the saddest pieces of fiction I’ve read, his writing is as elegantly understated as his movies, …

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