Born of No Woman: A Novel (Paperback)
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The Guardian: Best Translated Fiction
CrimeReads: Best International Crime Novel of the Year
In this gothic tale reminiscent of Faulkner’s Light in August, a young woman’s journals divulge the horrible secrets of a wealthy family in late nineteenth-century rural France.
Before he is called to bless the body of a woman at the nearby asylum, Father Gabriel receives a strange, troubling confession: hidden under her dress he will find the notebooks that contain Rose’s harrowing story.
At fourteen years old, Rose is sold to a rich man by her father, a farmer unable to support her and her three younger sisters. Traded for a handful of coins, she becomes the property of the master and is taken away without warning to her new home. This isolated manor that seems like a castle to Rose, with the master’s formidable mother and his absent wife, immediately provokes a sense of unease. Rose soon becomes caught in their perverse web, unsure of how to escape and whom she can trust.
The English-language debut of critically acclaimed author Franck Bouysse, this exquisitely written novel is both a keen commentary on class and a chilling horror story. Deftly navigating the complexities of desire, abuse, compassion, and resilience, he has created a timeless portrait of human nature left to fester unseen.
About the Author
Franck Bouysse was born in France in 1965. He began his writing career in 2007 after working as a biology teacher. Born of No Woman has won numerous literary prizes in France, including the Elle Readers’ Grand Prize, the Booksellers’ Prize, and the Prix Babelio. Born of No Woman is his first novel to be published in English.
Lara Vergnaud is a translator of prose, creative nonfiction, and scholarly works from the French. She is the recipient of two PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants and a French Voices Grand Prize, and has been nominated for the National Translation Award. She lives in Washington, DC.
“This book feels like the Marquis de Sade’s Justine if Justine had written it…show[ing] the author’s keen observational skills when it comes to class and gender.” —CrimeReads, Best International Crime Fiction of the Month
“Undoubtedly effective…There are plenty of narrative surprises as Rose’s father seeks to recover her, and she falls in love with the mysterious Edmond.” —The Guardian, The Best New Fiction in Translation
“A haunting, suspenseful Gothic tale set in nineteenth-century France that weaves many layers, from the plight of women in that era to class distinctions that lead to oppression of the vulnerable. The story also challenges ethical and religious boundaries of what might be considered justifiable responses from those who suffer relentless cruelty. The tragic Rose arrives at the home of a wealthy man and his mother. Immediately, their cruel welcome is ominously coupled with the mysterious, sickly wife who is locked in a room that Rose is forbidden to ever enter. Betrayed at every turn by her father, her employer, and her lover, Rose endures a string of abuses. She finds the strength to fight back and retain her sanity. Ultimately, this is a book of hope and the resilience of the human spirit to overcome tragedy. The narrative is elegant, and the viewpoint of every character is compelling and credible. Highly recommended!” —Debbie Herbert, USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author of Not One of Us and Cold Waters
“Born of No Woman is a dazzling, heart-wrenching tale of cruelty and mercy, secrets and horrors. The novel is deeply immersive, gothic, and taut with dread; the prose sings and the characters burn in the heart. Easily my favorite book of the year. Not to be missed.” —Kim Taylor Blakemore, bestselling author of After Alice Fell
“One of the most disturbing yet lyrically exquisite novels I’ve read in a long time. The poetic and pastoral beauty of the nineteenth-century French countryside is vividly contrasted with the often-brutal treatment of breeding livestock on the farms—which in its turn mirrors the treatment of the fourteen-year-old Rose when she is sold by her poor father to the master of a manor. Once enslaved in her new home, Rose is tormented and abused, soon forced to contemplate the horrors concealed within some hidden chambers where she discovers the true fate of her master’s absent wife. Brave, sometimes horrific, Born of No Woman is one of the most compelling novels I have read in many years. Infused with lurid elements of the most gothic fairy tales, it explores the darkest realms of human sexuality.” —Essie Fox, author of The Last Days of Leda Grey
“Born of No Woman is beautifully and quietly haunting. Rose’s triumph over human weakness, cruelty, and her own powerlessness as a woman without means or status deeply resonates, and the strength of her dignity and resilience lingers long after the pages are turned.” —Megan Chance, bestselling author of A Splendid Ruin
“Here, everything is epiphanic, essential, surprising, whether it be the revelation of a secret or the painting of a detail…At once classic and phantasmagoric, Born of No Woman proves that fiction…can still amaze.” —Le Monde des livres
“A vivid, mesmerizing tale.” —L’Express
“Rare are those who, like Franck Bouysse, manage to write the indescribable, to touch the unspeakable, with so much subtlety and intensity. In spite of the severity and darkness of certain pages, Born of No Woman is a deeply moving and luminous book.” —La Libre