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The Confidant: A Novel by Helene Gremillon

The Confidant: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Helene Gremillon

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2081856,261 (3.63)5
Title:The Confidant: A Novel
Authors:Helene Gremillon
Info:Penguin Books (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:giveaways, free, contemporary, mystery, historical

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The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon

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English (11)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Brilliant, I just had to keep reading and the twists in the plot kept on coming right until the last page. The writer is adept at handling the unreliable narrator. Just when you thought you had the story clear an alternative narrative voice would reveal a new piece of information. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  HelenBaker | Dec 11, 2014 |
Oma arvio: On vuosi 1975 Pariisissa. Camille menettää äitinsä ja saa postitse paljon surunvalitteluja. Osa kirjeistä kertoo tarinaa, joka sijoittuu toisen maailmansodan aikaan ja Camille ihmettelee ovatko kirjeet todellakin tarkoitettu hänelle. Kirjeissä ei ole allekirjoitusta ja ne kertovat mystisten Louisin ja Annien rakkaustarinaa. Tästä muodostuu kirjan rakenne: nykyhetkestä ja menneisyydestä. Kirjassa on selkeä juoni ja ikäänkuin takaumina toimivat kirjeet tuovat jopa pientä jännitystä tarinaan. Kertoja vaihtuu samalla kuin aikakin, välillä kertojana on nainen ja välillä mies. Se tuo tarinaan syvyyttä. Toisaalta tämä on melko lyhyt tarina eikä se jää pitkäksi aikaa mieleen. ( )
  Elina.Kristiina | Jan 6, 2014 |
In Paris in 1975, Camille’s mother has recently died and she is struggling to cope, when she receives the first of a series of long confessional letters from a man called Louis, recalling a love story set in the 1930s and 1940s. The Second World War and the German occupation of France are a backdrop to the story rather than a main part of it.

Louis loved Annie from when they were at school together. Annie became friends with a wealthy woman who moved to their village. Madame M is desperate to have a baby and somehow persuades Annie to help her. A complicated, tragic story unfolds.

I enjoyed reading this novel and working out the story, but I didn’t find most of the characters entirely convincing – Annie seems too good to be true, and Madame M too scheming and unpleasant. Various references to historical events of the time seem to add little to the story, which is not about the political history of the time.

With these reservations, this is still worth reading, and I would probably read another book by the author. ( )
  elkiedee | Sep 23, 2013 |
At first I was not sure if the framing device (having Camille receive the letters in installments, instead of just telling the story that was in the letters) was entirely necessary, but by the end I accepted it. (Not a fan of the font used for Camille present-day story, however; fortunately, most of the story is in Louis's letters or Madame M's story, as transcribed by Louis.)

Discovering the story along with Camille, one cannot help but sympathize with Annie, feel sorry for Louis, and be somewhat horrified by Madame M. A concise, well-written, compelling story that captures the feel of the time(s) and place(s).


Annie, who was unsociable by nature, seemed to have found in that young woman the type of person one meets only once in a lifetime: the one who can replace everyone else. (Louis, 28)

Love is a mysterious principle, falling out of love more mysterious still. One can know why one loves but never, truly, why one has ceased to love. (Louis, 28)

Where love is concerned...you mustn't ask, mustn't beg. Don't ever try to make people love you the way you want them to love you, that's not it, that's not true love. You have to let people love you their own way... (Annie's mother, 46)

"Don't you think, Louis, that in other people's lives there is the past which matters and the past which doesn't matter?" (Annie, 103)

To be sure, this [infertility] book dated from 1885, but it was still the leading reference book. There was not a single contemporary book on the subject....At that time, advice of this nature was the only remedy available for those who wanted a child when the body itself refused to comply with the wishes of one's soul. Theories only become archaic the moment new ones replace them, and for almost sixty years nothing at all had been written about infertile women. (Madame M., 130, 133)

I was neither devout not a regular churchgoer, but I was simply and foolishly superstitious, that was all I was capable of. Superstition, unlike faith, is for those who need to believe but cannot give. (Madame M., 140)

I was in that part of the soul that is unacquainted with the body, perhaps that part of us that survives after death. (Madame M., 148)

I had driven him into a corner with all the sadism of an enemy. I had forgotten that I loved him. (Madame M. re Paul, 152)

I felt neither fear nor distress at the sight of her suffering, that's just how it was, empathy stops where rivalry begins. (Madame M. re Annie, 187)

Only people who have no pride at all will go on clinging to a heart that has been taken... (Madame M., 214)

In certain specific circumstances a particular facet of the self comes to light, only to vanish again instantly the moment the circumstances change. (Madame M., 226)

...but love and clear-sightedness never go together
and Elisabeth always believed the opposite (Camille, 239)
( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
When I get a review request in my email inbox for a historical fiction novel with an appealing cover, I just cannot say no. The Confidant, set in Paris, as you can tell from the cover with the ubiquitous Eiffel Tower background, also takes place partially during the WWII era. Basically, I was all kinds of sold. What I love about fiction set in that era is how much variety there is, how much ground to be covered, and, yet again, I found myself in a book very different from any I'd previously encountered. The Confidant is a strange, oddly powerful little book.

The novel opens on Camille, who, in her mid-thirties, has just become pregnant by her boyfriend and whose mother has just died. These facts matter only in how they affect her mental state at the time of receiving the letters. After bereavement, people send letters, sharing stories, offering condolences, etc. Camille receives a thicker, unsigned letter, and opens it, curious to discover what it contains. Inside, she finds a story, one that seems to have little to do with her. The letters keep coming, always unsigned and always conveying a bit more of the story. This narrative device ensnared my curiosity, much as it did Camille's. What happened to the people in these letters? Were they delivered to Camille by mistake?

While the bulk of the novel does take place during WWII, I will say that the war serves solely as a backdrop or a sort of catalyst to the drama of the piece. In fact, this story could have happened in another time or another place. It's a story of a woman and a girl, one desperate to fulfill what she sees as her duty and the other trying to find herself.

The main theme of The Confidant centers around childbirth. Obviously, this isn't a topic of much interest to me ordinarily, but the treatment here really made me think. Madame M desperately wants children, but, despite years of trying, she and her husband have yet to conceive. Constantly bombarded by war propaganda urging the importance of procreation to the continued health of France, Madame M feels guilty and like a failure. Her desperation drives her to try every single rumored cure for infertility, and goodness gracious but it was horrifying. The things women have been asked to do throughout history boggle my mind and sadden me deeply.

The tale told within these pages surprised me in its sordidness and darkness. Honestly, I expected something much lighter. However, The Confidant turned out to be a tale of sex and betrayal. While I didn't connect with any of the characters on a personal level, I could not help being caught up in their drama and the desire to discover just how the past had become Camille's present and where everyone ended up.

Sadly, though, I think this novel could have been formatted much better, as it was rather confusing. There are no chapter headings or indications that you're switching from one narrative to another, besides, sometimes, a change in font. Camille's narrative is an awful sans serif font. Then, without warning, the novel switches to Louis' letter. This, at least, had the benefit of being in a different font, but there was no transition at all, so it was jarring. More troublesome was the switch to Annie's perspective, which had no distinguishable difference from Louis'. I read several pages before I finally figured out what was going on. Once I knew what to expect, I didn't have any problems, but this really could have been handled better.

Grémillon has a poetic sort of writing style, which, while not entirely unpleasant to me, simply was not a style that has particular appeal to me. The phrasing was occasionally quite strange, and reads perhaps more like free verse than prose perhaps, though it could also be a result of an awkward translation from French. Grémillon even ends the novel with a poem, which definitely went rather over my head. I've been trying to do better, but I still have difficulty appreciating poetry.

For those of a poetic persuasion with an interest in women's issues and history, Grémillon's debut is a must-read. Though it did not end up being precisely my kind of book, I can recommend it highly as a quality read for a slightly different style of reader. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hélène Grémillonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alegre, Alfonso SebastiánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sebastián Alegre, AlfonsoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Through a series of condolence letters from an unknown correspondent, Camille Werner learns she may be the daughter of Annie and Louis, two teenage friends who lived in a small French town on the cusp of WWII. Set in Paris, 1975.

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