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Memories of Low Tide

Chantal Thomas | Translated by Natasha Lehrer

Can a daughter ever really understand her mother?

Chantal Thomas grew up in a seaside town on the Atlantic coast of France, inheriting from her mother an obsession with the sea, and for swimming. In this tender and eloquent memoir she seeks to understand her quixotic, often inscrutable mother – a woman who was luminous in the water and once dived into the moat of the Palace of Versailles, but became fettered by marriage and domestic life.

Thomas combs the beaches of her childhood for memories, recalling the sensory pleasures of the sands, the first sharp touch of cold water, and discovering the multitude of ways in which she is still her mother’s daughter.

'"Chantal Thomas] has invented a new literary genre: the liquid memoir, the watery autobiography... Chantal paints a striking portrait of her mother, so lackluster in the house yet so luminous among the waves... This book of liquid, salty prose that Colette would have liked so much..." —L'Obs

"A story of inheritance, of the fluidity of a mother-daughter relationship dissolved in a calm sea, a kind of reverse amniotic fluid, in which to dive and luxuriate deliciously"  —Marie Claire

"This is an infinitely gentle, oblique look at a whole century, passed through as a swimmer crosses the water, from one buoy to another... Haunting and elegiac" —Livres Hebdo

"As you turn these dazzling pages, you pass from levity to humour, from insouciance to nostalgia, from frivolity to deep solemnity" —Le Figaro

"To evoke her mother, a naiad for whom the only promise of happiness lay in the call of the waves, Chantal Thomas shares and draws out this endless wonder with her Memories of Low Tide"Le Monde


Originally published by Seuil in 2017 with the Title Souvenirs de la marée basse.

More information here.

Chantal Thomas was born in Lyon in 1945, and she was raised in Arcachon, Bordeaux and Paris. She has taught History at a number of French and American universities and is the author of over 20 books. She won the Prix Femina for her novel Farewell, My Queen (2002), and later received the prestigious Roger-Caillois and Prince Pierre de Monaco prizes for her entire oeuvre.