Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Born Of No Woman by Franck Bouysse, translated by Lara Vergnaud. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson for my digital review copy.
About the Book
Nineteenth-century rural France. Before he is called to bless the body of a woman at the nearby asylum, Father Gabriel receives a strange, troubling confession: hidden under the woman’s dress he will find the notebooks in which she confided the abuses she suffered and the twisted motivations behind them.
And so Rose’s terrible story comes to light: sold as a teenage girl to a rich man, hidden away in a old manor house deep in the woods and caught in a perverse web, manipulated by those society considers her betters.
A girl whose only escape is to capture her life – in all its devastation and hope – in the pages of her diary…
Born Of No Woman has won every prize awarded by readers in France, including the Grand Prix Des Lectrices Elle, one of the most important prizes in France. It has also won The Prix Des Libraires (given by booksellers), Prix Psychologies Magazine and and the Prix Babelio.
Format: Hardcover (368 pages) Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publication date: 21st October 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature in Translation
Find Born Of No Woman on Goodreads
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops
Born Of No Woman is a powerful story of injustice, suffering and the cruelty that human beings can inflict on one another. But it is also a love story, a mystery and an exploration of how people deal with – or attempt to deal with – trauma; how, although seemingly powerless, they can reclaim some power over their lives and destinies. For Rose, it is writing that gives her the strength to carry on despite everything she has endured. As she says, ‘All that’s keeping me alive now is writing, or rather, if there was some word that meant to both scream and write, that would be better’. It’s also about power; the power men are able to exert over women, and the power the rich can exert over the poor.
An interesting aspect of the book for me was how many of the characters are struggling with guilt or regret, often misplaced. Although believing initially that he was faced with no other choice if he was to save his family from penury, Onésime, Rose’s father, is soon filled with regret at his actions and attempts to put things right. Rose’s mother feels a sense of guilt that she was able to provide her husband with only daughters – ‘the promise she hadn’t been able to keep; for in the end, their misfortunes had sprouted there, in her repeated inability to bring a son into the world. Everything that had led precisely to their loss’.
Similarly, the man Rose meets soon after arriving at the house of the person she will learn to refer to as the Master’ (described chillingly as ‘One who never lets go of his prey’) regrets she does not heed his warning to leave. He feels a sense of guilt at having stood by and done nothing to stop the terrible things that have happened in the past and, he feels sure, will happen again. On the other hand, the people who should feel guilt – the Master and his mother – show no sign of it although they have more reason than most given the evil they inflict on others, in particular Rose.
The book has the feeling of a dark fairy tale: Les Forges, the castle-like home of the Master, the Master’s mother playing the role of an evil Queen, and the dense and ancient forest that surrounds Les Forges. ‘Veined wood, riddled by thorn scars, covered with ants swarming in search of honeydew. Sick leaves, stained with black, felted in white, the green dissolved.’ There are also echoes of Jane Eyre in the existence of a locked room whose macabre secrets will eventually be revealed.
Born Of No Woman is not an easy read as there are some harrowing scenes. What makes it bearable is that, alongside the brutality and cruelty, there are also examples of tenderness. Strangely enough, at the end of the book I was left with a feeling of hope and a sense that evil and injustice will be punished.
In three words: Powerful, intense, chilling
Try something similar: The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
About the Author
Franck Bouysse is a French author. His novels Grossir le ciel in 2014, Plateau in 2016 and Glaise in 2017 have met with wide success and won a vast array of literary awards. Previously a teacher of biology and horticulture, Bouysse lives in the south-west of France.
Connect with Franck