French fiction in translation

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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Cover image for Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan

Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan (transl. George Miller): The importance of saying thank you

January seems to be Delphine de Vigan month for me. This time two years ago I reviewed the gripping Based on a True Story with which I was very impressed; last year’s Loyalties not so much. This year it’s Gratitude and I’m back to being a de Vigan fan. This brief of novellas explores ageing …

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A Hundred Million Years and a Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea (transl. Sam Taylor): The folly of a dream

I’m not entirely sure I would have read Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s novella with its rather wordy title had it not been for the enthusiasm of the small indie publisher who approached me to review it which would have been a shame. A Hundred Million Years and a Day was a huge literary hit in France last …

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The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos (transl. Sam Taylor): Tailor made

David Foekinos’ The Mystery of Henri Pick marks the beginning of a collaboration between publishers Pushkin Press and Channel 4’s Walter Presents, a streaming service which provides a good deal of my TV entertainment with its subtitled European drama. Even without that, I’d have been interested in this book whose blurb promised a novel about …

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The Cheffe by Marie NDiaye (transl. Jordan Stump): A culinary enigma

Several things attracted me to Marie NDiaye’s The Cheffe: I’ve a weakness for novels about food, given its author and subject I expected a healthy streak of feminism and there was the promise of an unreliable narrator. My liking for those may be even greater than my predilection for foodie fiction. NDiyae’s novel is the …

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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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Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (transl. Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis): Interconnected lives

I’m sure I’ve already made this observation here but I’ve yet to read a dud from Peirene Press. Their books are always thought-provoking and often beautifully expressed, a tribute to both writer and translator, or in this case translators. Clearly, Meike Ziervogel has a very discerning editorial eye and her own writing is quite remarkable, …

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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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Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan (transl. George Miller): Silence is not always golden

I read Delphine de Vigan’s Based on a True Story around this time last year and knew it would be one of my books of the year. I was delighted, then, when I spotted Loyalties on the publishing horizon. It tells the story of a young boy, caught up in the fallout from a bitter …

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