Great Translations: Three Underappreciated French Women Authors

Jim Fonseca
6 min readMay 30, 2022
Paris apartment buildings from parisperfect.com

Let me qualify my headline: these three women authors are very appreciated in France and other countries. They just haven’t caught on yet in the English-speaking (reading) world.

The Confidant by Helene Gremillon

Wow, if you want a story of secrets, lies, treachery and betrayal this is the book for you. Everyone lies their way through the complex plot of this psychological thriller. Yet, while it is a complex plot, it’s written in a style that is easy to follow — you won’t get lost in it.

We’re in Paris, 1975. Camille, a young woman editor, is sifting through condolence letters after her mother’s death. She finds a long, handwritten letter with no return address from a ‘Louis’ she has never heard of. She assumes it came to her by mistake.

But every week brings another installment. Is this letter talking about her father, she wonders? Mostly the weekly letters go on to talk about this guy Louis, and the love of his life, Annie. This is during WW II at the time of the German occupation of Paris. Here and there are references that might have something to do with her parents or where they lived. There are cliffhangers in each installment.

And then she gets it! This guy knows she’s a book editor and this obscure writer has come up with a way to suck her into reading his book! But then he starts talking about a baby girl and something incredibly personal makes the hair stand up on her neck. How could this stranger know this about her body?

What is the letter writer hiding? Why doesn’t he just tell her the story and sign his name? Now she turns detective, trying to hunt down ‘Louis’ from vague clues about people, places and dates in his letters.

I really enjoyed the originality of the storyline and the author’s ability to keep us engrossed without losing us in the complex plot.

Helene Gremillon from penguinrandomhouse.com

The author, Helene Gremillon (b. 1977), has written five novels, only two of which have been translated into English. The Confidant was her first novel and a big hit selling more than a half million copies…

--

--

Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.