Mémoire de Fille (or “A Girl’s Memory”) is Annie Ernaux’s last book, which was published in early April. Annie Ernaux is a French contemporary author who writes non fiction about her life, and what it’s like to be a woman raised after World War II (she was born in 1940).
This work hasn’t been translated yet.
Genre: Non Fiction
Release date: April 2016
Summer of 1958. The narrator is 18, and spending her first summer without her parents as an organizer in a summer camp. There, she will discover love and sex, and what it’s like to be rejected.
The narration is divided between the “I” of the present, and the “she” of the past. As in many of Ernaux’s other books, we get descriptions of pictures along with the story, as the narrator tries to encapture how she was in the past.
The narration also follows the two next years after the summer camp, and show how this completely influenced her life.
Annie Ernaux is brilliant, and I’m never going to say otherwise, though this was not my favourite of her books.
Obviously, the subject is not an easy one to talk about, and maybe that’s what made me uneasy. Or the fact that I can’t relate at all with the narrator. I recognize her from her other books, and yet I can’t connect at all. Maybe that’s because we are not from the same generation, or the same social environment. Yet we like the same things, I’m studying literature and so has she. I have also been an organizer in a summer camp, even if we don’t see things the same way.
I think this book is unique because of the subject it deals with, and because of the writing style, which is crude and can be described as “écriture plate” (this is how the author herself describes her writing style), which can be translated as “plain writing” or even “flat writing”.
Ernaux’s work here in this book in particular is very interesting in a feminist context, in my opinion, because it raises the question of rape and abuse, even if the victim didn’t feel that way at the time. It raises the question of the woman as an object, which is something the author tried to fight, and this points out a very big difference between how she was in the past (and how she describes herself) and how she is now. I think this shows the evolution of her thoughts, and to some extent, the evolution of the society.
This book is important, it is a very personal confession and at the same time, it speaks for many girls, girls from then and from now. I think this is part of the power of non fiction, and what makes those books so unique. They tell a story, and that story is the truth. It has to be recognized as such. And in the case of Mémoire de Fille, it’s part of a bigger plot, of a fight for women’s recognition and freedom.
I recommend it for:
People who like non fiction and feminism. However, if you haven’t read any book by Annie Ernaux, I wouldn’t recommend you start with this one. I would rather recommend The Place which won the Renaudot price, or The Years (though it hasn’t been translated in English – but you can check out my review here!)