Throughout The Confidant, each main character narrates in the first person. Camille is the only narrator in present time (Paris 1975) and the story weaves and builds as we become a part of each narrator’s perspective.
In Paris 1975, Camille has been opening letters of condolence after the death of her mother. It is in amongst those letters that the first ‘letter’ from Louis arrives. Interspersed through the letters we spend time with Camille, finding out details about her life. Camille is a publisher and at first thinks the letters may have been sent from an author who knows a manuscript wouldn’t be read for a long time. As the story progresses, Camille starts to intuit where she fits into the tale that is being told.
From Louis we find out about Annie and her place in his life since childhood. The reader is also a part of their reunion in German occupied Paris in 1945. The next perspective is from Annie herself. We find out how Madame M became a part of her life, the fateful day of Madame M’s confession and her poignant role of confidant. Annie’s narrative is heartbreaking in places. From this I had made up my mind how I felt about Madame M. However, the final narrative from Madame M herself fills in and overlaps the previous characters stories and her revelations give us knowledge we didn’t have previously. Knowing the truth adds a host of different emotions and makes the reader reflect on what is already known to modify those beliefs.
Besides the emotional journey, the descriptions of the places are written in such a way that they come to life. For example Annie wondering the streets of occupied Paris are amazing. I could feel myself with her, dazed and confused. Louis and Annie out after curfew felt so real as well. I feel as if I have spent time in France both in villages and the city!
The Confidant is an honest portrayal of a young girl’s desire to help without having the maturity to have thought her decision through in reality. It’s a story of social expectations and a mature woman’s deep-seated need to fit in with them … and the fear and doubt that accompanies any intimate relationship that doesn’t fulfil societies expectations. It is an emotional journey that builds up layer upon layer and affects future generations. This is a debut novel I definitely recommend for your bookshelf.
The Confidant is translated from French by Alison Anderson.
I would like to thank Gallic Books for offering The Confidant for review via Twitter.