Girl A Novel by Camille Laurens

Girl a novel by Camille Laurens

French fiction

Original title – Fille

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – Review Copy

I’m late to the review of this just it was one of those books that you have to let sink into you as it was a powerful insight into growing up female in a male-dominated world. Camille Laurens is a member of the Academy Goncourt she was involved in a scandal last year around her husband getting voted on the longlist and a review she had published of another book on the list in Le Monde (I love these little snippets about writers it makes them seem real, Plus it is hard when you partner is in the same world as you and this situation happens). Camille is a prize-winner writer winning the Prix femina and has been on a number of prize Juries over the years she has had a number of books translated into English this is the first book by her I have read.

You’re a girl. It’s not a tragedy either, you see. You are slant-eyed but we’re not in China. Were not in India. In India the words “it’s a girl”  are now banned. Saying “it’s a girl” before the baby is born is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 6,000 rupees: people are no longer allowed to ask for or carry out scans to identify the baby’s sex and then have an abortion because too many girls are vanishing; so many have been nipped in the bud that there are whole villages of single men. So many girls have been liquidated, they never use the words “sister” or”wife.” Before scans were invented girls were killed at birth. If you’d been born in India or China, you might be dead. In Rouen
everything’s fine. You’re loved in spite of it

As I said the world still has many Laurence’s in it

The book focus on a childhood in the 60s we meet Laurence she is the second daughter her family is a typical family of the time her father works as a doctor and her mother is a housewife. This is really the back bok=ne of the book the time it is set and what we see is Laurence taking apart her childhood. He wanted a son and heir. so When Laurence is born, that really sets the tone for her childhood in many ways the feeling of always being a second-class person to her father’s disregard for the siblings. The fathers constant undermining and view of the world  This is a slice of a provincial world and views you often look back on news footage of these days(I love the bcc archive YouTube channel little snippets of stories over the years) and think was that the world and this is a birds-eye view of growing up female in a male world. The second half of the book is a flip to the first as we see the daughter become a mother to her own Daughter Alice and can she change the way she was brought up it is a picture of a dotting mother trying to avoid what befell her as a child but it is also shown how times and attitudes had changed in the intervening years. The adult Laurence has scars of her childhood and certain events in her life show that.

My father takes my sister and me to see it one after the other, never together. If the boat should capsize or suddenly deflate, even with our water wings on we could drown, and he wouldn’t be able to save both of us, he’d have to choose. Now that’s a father who thinks of everything, even death. Perhaps he’s thinking of Gaelle: girls do that, they die. Perhaps if one of the two of us had been a
boy, he’d have taken us both in the boat. A boy’s good and strong, a boy can always cope. But more tellingly, I think to myself, if one of us were a boy, he wouldn’t hesitate if the boat went down, he’d know who to save.

This one passage hit me hard sad but true

This is a powerful work of feminist writing it takes apart a childhood when you were the sex that wasn’t wanted there is a universal nature to that yes our attitudes in the west have changed and moved on maybe not far enough but books like this show how far along the road we are but also are a reminder of what still has to change how many Laurence are there still around the world. Its hard not to feel there is still;l far to come as is shown when Laurence’s education and just the sheer disadvantage of being female what is shocking is this is only 60 years ago and seems a distant land for me I am a couple of decades younger, but this world felt alien to even then. She works the narrative well with all three perspectives at the time the first second and third person of this life is a woman’s life a look at those subtle obstacles that often are created whether it be sex, race or sexual orientation there is always those that tried and try to sublet unsettled people. It took me a while to review this as it just has to sink in it made me angry and sad at times and for me that is what we as readers read for those journeys those narratives other than our own to be female in a small French provincial time is something I Never could be but this book brought me into her life. Have you read any other books from Camille Laurens /

Winstons score – A – look behind the curtain at going up the wrong sex and disadvantaged due to that and how it effect her own motherhood.


September 2022


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