Publisher: Gallic Fiction
Selected Edition: Paperback
No. of Pages: 267
Translated by Alison Anderson
I received this book from The Inner Circle, run by Book Oxygen (find out more here).
The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon begins with a letter, sent anonymously, to the main character, Camille, an editor living in Paris in the 1970s. It comes just after the death of her mother, and this and subsequent letters tell the story of a young man, Louis, and a young woman from his town with whom he is in love, Annie. When a young married, bourgeois couple move in to the town, Annie begins visiting them, painting and acting as companion to Madame M. As time passes it is revealed that Madame M. cannot bear children and Annie offers to bear one for her. What is unveiled is a series of letters in which the decisions made by adults have dark influences on the lives of Annie and her baby, and consequences which reach far into the future that they could not have envisaged.
I read this a while ago and didn’t take any notes at the time so I sadly can’t remember the specific parts that appealed to me. I do, however, remember how much I enjoyed the style of this novel, it contains all different types of form – prose, poetry and letters, but is still quite an easy read. There are recipes, snippets of propaganda at the time and the novel cleverly weaves all of this together to form one cohesive piece, bringing to life the period of time in which it is set and the characters themselves.
I also liked the mystery of it all, Camille trying to solve who was sending her these letters, and the story that unfolded, the background of pre-World War II France and how it affected the characters (including a lovely image of Louis giving Annie a piggyback through Paris after the curfew, running through the streets fearfully in the dark. There was an element of the cliff-hanger to this book, and like Camille, I was waiting on the arrival of the next letter, and the next revelation that would lead a little closer to the truth of past events.
What becomes clear is that one does not know who to trust, there are several voices, all fighting for space, all fighting to have their say and let their testament of events be the one that lasts, the one that stands as the truth. It is left up to the reader to decide who is ultimately culpable for all that went on, and I was left with the feeling that no one, however they became involved, is entirely without fault or guiltless, whether through their direct actions or their failure to act.
I really did enjoy this book and it seems to fit in well and compliment other novels I have read this year, such as Suite Française and Half Blood Blues – it has been really interesting to get to see another side to the Second World War. That said, the war is not the main focus of this novel, but more the relationships and the influence of the secrets we choose to keep.
If you’re interested in finding out a little bit more about the author herself, Hélène Grémillon is taking part in a blog tour this week.
First up, Hélène chats to David Hebblethwaite about her book on his blog Follow the Thread. You can also read his thoughts on the book there too.
On Tuesday, a passage written by Hélène about her writing room was posted about on the My Writing Room blog. It really is a rather lovely piece – well worth a read!
Wednesday saw a list of Hélène’s favourite books, alongside a review of the book on Winstonsdad’s Blog.
Added on Thursday was a review of The Confidant on Cornflower Books.
And another review featuring a Q & A with Hélène can be found on Curiosity Killed the Bookworm, offering some interesting insights into her writing process for The Confidant.
Or, if you’re in London on Thursday 8th of November, Hélène will be discussing her novel with the translator Alison Anderson at Belgravia Books. It’s free and should be a really good event! If you’re interested, you can find out more and book your place here.