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French Fiction Fridays #8

In this eighth installment of French Fiction Fridays, we are introduced to two novels that question the institutions of marriage and a woman’s place in society. In her autobiographical novel, The Second Wife, Caroline Pochon tells the story of a French woman who meets and falls in love with a Senegalese poet at the Ouagadougou film festival. The following excerpt teases out her personal experience of culture clash as she contemplates becoming the poet’s second wife. In Raphaëlle Riol’s novel Amazons, we meet two women who reject marriage, Alice (30) and her grandmother Alphonsine (89). In their internal monologues, the members of this fugitive duo revolt against the fates that life seems to have set out for them.

We hope you enjoy meeting these strong female characters. Come back next week for another serving of delicious French fiction.

The Second Wifeby Caroline Pochon

Synopsis: Hortense is fed up with her family, society in general and her home town of Caen in France. Fascinated by Africa, she decides to leave it all behind, flying out to Burkina Faso to attend a film festival in the capital city of Ouagadougou. There, liberated from her past, she begins a period of exploration and discovery. At the festival she meets Seydou, the ‘Keur Massar Poet’, and falls head over heels in love. He wants to marry her, so she has to convert to Islam and become Aïcha. But more importantly, she will be his second wife. The first wife is called Awa; she is pregnant and about to give birth.

With a gift for sharp and lucid expression, the author analyses the emotions that motivate Seydou and his two wives. Pochon reveals how Senegalese women live their lives and invites us to discover, from within, African polygamy in all its complexity.

The Second Wife is a first novel that combines adventure, love, hate and violence. It has an authentic charm while revealing a passionate love story that may be difficult to accept.

Read excerpt (English)Read excerpt (French)

Amazonsby Raphaëlle Riol

Synopsis: It is late summer at ‘Repos fleuri’, a retirement home for old ladies who have outlived their deceased husbands. One of them, Alphonsine Guerini, aged 89, cannot stand the hospice any longer. Then there is Alice, aged 3, who has come to visit her grandmother. Do thetwo women have nothing in common? Quite the contrary. Both of them have a lot to share,their hatred of the country, for instance. No sooner have they met than here they are, running away from Repos Fleuri, to one of Alice’s childhood homes, which actually happens to be in the country … In a few days, each of them will try and re-appropriate her life and memories because, as they put it, ‘we aren’t living among women just to be broken down’. We discover the miserable life led by Alphonsine, married to a dignitary who went off hunting on Sunday and was a tyrant at home. We see Alice, a Parisian working in event management, whose lover has just died and who dreams of ditching everything, including her job. They are real warriors, these Amazons, who have but one alternative ‘to become Madame Bovary or to kill’… They are against resignation to their fate, but very much in favour of of the revolution—at 30 as much as at 89!

Read excerpt (English)Read excerpt (French)